REPORT: Ideology And Partisanship On The 2013 Broadcast Sunday Morning Political Talk Shows

››› ››› ROB SAVILLO

Republicans and conservatives were hosted more often than Democrats and progressives on the four broadcast Sunday morning political talk shows. Fox News Sunday was particularly slanted toward the right while ABC's This Week was the only program to feature as many progressives as conservatives.

Throughout 2013, Media Matters has analyzed guest appearances on ABC's This Week with George Stephanopoulos, CBS' Face the Nation with Bob Schieffer, Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace, NBC's Meet the Press with David Gregory, CNN's State of the Union with Candy Crowley, and MSNBC's Up with Steve Kornacki and Melissa Harris-Perry, political talk shows that often set the media and political agenda. Media Matters has previously released analyses of the firstsecond, and third quarters of the year and an overview analysis of the whole year.

This report examines the ideological and partisan breakdown of guests on the four broadcast Sunday shows in a more detailed manner.

The Conservative Advantage On The Sunday Shows

Right-Wing Guests Outnumber Left-Wing Guests On Three Of The Four Sunday Shows. Media Matters coded every guest on the Sunday shows as progressive, conservative, or neutral. On Face the NationFox News Sunday, and Meet the Press, right-wing guests outnumbered left-wing guests -- considerably so on Fox News Sunday, where conservatives enjoyed a 22-point lead on progressives.

Conservatives Outnumbered Progressives Throughout The Year. Progressives outnumbered conservatives during only three individual show quarters out of the sixteen analyzed for this study: This Week's second and third quarters and Meet the Press's third quarter. Right-wing guests led on all other quarters for all four shows, meaning that Face the Nation and Fox News Sunday hosted more right-wing guests during every single quarter throughout 2013. On Fox News Sunday, that advantage was 2-to-1 in three of the quarters.

Conservatives Received A Majority Of Time Devoted To Solo Interviews On Three Of The Four Shows. Fox News Sunday's split between one-on-one interview time devoted to right- and left-wing guests was particularly striking, with 61 percent of solo interview time going to conservatives and only 18 percent going to progressives. Meet the Press and Face the Nation also gave more time to right-wing guests at 48 percent and 45 percent to 35 percent, respectively. This Week was the only program to give left-wing guests an edge, with 42 percent of solo interview time going to progressives and 31 percent to conservatives.

Three Of The Four Sunday Shows Gave Conservatives More Solo Interview Time Quarter After Quarter. Fox News Sunday gave conservatives more time for solo interviews in every quarter of 2013. Face the Nation and Meet the Press each did so during three of the four quarters of the year.

All Four Shows Hosted More Tilted-Right Panels Than Tilted-Left Panels. During panel and roundtable discussions, where the show hosts more than one guest simultaneously, the broadcast Sunday shows were all more like to have an imbalance of guests that tilted to the right. Once again, Fox News Sunday was the most egregious, with 42 percent of panels hosting more right-wing guests and only 5 percent of panels hosting more left-wing guests.

Panels Tilted Right Consistently Throughout The Year. Despite a few quarters where tilted-left and -right panels were equal, panels on every show were more likely to host an imbalance of more right- than left-wing guests.

Among The Largest Represented Group, White Men, Conservatives Lead By A Significant Margin. White right-wing men were 29 percent of all guests on the broadcast Sunday shows while left-wing men were just about half that amount. More progressives of color were hosted than conservatives of color.

A Plurality Of Solo Interviews Went To Conservative White Men. Thirty-five percent of all solo interviews went to right-wing white men.

Elected And Administration Officials

Face The NationFox News Sunday Hosted More Republicans Than Democrats. Media Matters separately examined elected officials and members of the Obama administration hosted on the Sunday shows. Nearly two-thirds of such guests hosted on Fox News Sunday were Republicans. Face the Nation also hosted more Republicans, while This Week hosted more Democrats Meet the Press' split between left and right was close to parity with a slight edge given to Democrats.

Face The NationFox News Sunday Increase Proportion Of Republicans Throughout 2013. Face the Nation's proportion of Republicans shifted most dramatically from 45 percent in the first quarter to 58 percent in the fourth. Fox News Sunday increased its proportion of Republicans from 64 percent in the first quarter to 70 percent in the fourth.

Three Of The Four Sunday Shows Devoted More Solo Interview Time To Republicans. Fox News SundayFace the Nation, and Meet the Press each gave more of their time for one-on-one interviews to Republicans; 72 percent of time went to Republicans on Fox News Sunday, 55 percent on Face the Nation, and 52 percent on Meet the Press.

Face The NationFox News Sunday Consistently Gave Republicans More Solo Interview Time Throughout 2013. While Face the Nation's first quarter gave more time to Democrats, the following three increasingly gave more time to Republicans. In every quarter, Fox News Sunday gave Republicans more solo interview time than Democrats. Meet the Press gave Republicans more time during the first two quarters of the year and equal time between Democrats and Republicans in the fourth quarter.

Journalists And Pundits

All Four Sunday Shows Hosted More Conservative Than Progressive Journalists And Pundits. Media Matters separately examined journalists and pundits hosted on the Sunday shows. Fox News Sunday had the largest imbalance yet again, with a 49 percent plurality of journalist and pundit guests being conservative and only 16 percent being progressive. On the other three broadcast shows neutral journalists and pundits were the most common, followed by conservatives, followed by progressives. This Week's journalists and pundits were 23 percent conservative compared to 10 percent progressive; Meet the Press' split was 23 percent to 14 percent; and Face the Nation's split was 8 percent to 1 percent.

Conservative Journalists And Pundits Consistently Outnumbered Progressives Throughout 2013. On all four Sunday shows during nearly every quarter of 2013, conservative journalists and pundits far outnumbered their progressive counterparts. Again, Fox News Sunday was particularly imbalanced, with conservatives numbering about three times greater than progressives in every quarter. In only one quarter, Meet the Press' first, were conservative and progressive journalists hosted equally, and in no quarter were progressives in greater number.

Methodology

We reviewed every edition of ABC's This Week with George Stephanopoulos, CBS' Face The Nation with Bob Schieffer, NBC's Meet The Press with David Gregory, and Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday. Guest appearances for all four programs were coded for gender and ethnicity; whether guests appeared in solo interviews or as part of a panel; whether they were journalists, administration officials, or elected officials; and for their partisanship or ideology. Not all percentages add up to 100 due to rounding.

These classifications do not represent an analysis of what guests actually said when they appeared on a show on a given date. Coding each guest's comments for their ideological slant would have introduced enormous difficulties and opportunities for subjectivity. Instead, we simply classified guests based on their own ideological self-identification or public affiliation with an openly partisan or ideological organization or institution.

In the vast majority of cases, guests are clearly identifiable by their party or ideology (or as having none). Of course, in a few instances, these decisions were not as simple to make. We therefore constructed rules that could be applied as strictly as possible. Where a guest's identification was in question, Media Matters chose to err on the side of listing that guest toward the left.

Following are some of the principal rules coders employed in classifying guests:

  • The party designations (Democratic and Republican) are reserved for current and former officeholders, candidates, campaign staff, political consultants associated with one party or the other, and administration officials. All others are labeled conservative, progressive, or neutral.
  • The neutral category does not necessarily imply strict ideological neutrality but, rather, might better be understood as neutral/centrist/nonpartisan -- we use the term "neutral" for the sake of brevity.
  • When guests served in both Republican and Democratic administrations in the past, they were coded as neutral barring any compelling reason to do otherwise. In a few cases, however, a former official who had served under presidents from both parties became clearly identified with one ideology and were coded accordingly.
  • Our "Journalist" classification applies not only to daily reporters but also to opinion columnists, magazine writers, etc.
  • In the case of foreign officials and journalists, we labeled all as neutral -- even though the political ideology of some might be identifiable -- to avoid the need to analyze the politics of other countries. Foreign nationals were also excluded from the diversity analysis.
  • Active duty members of the armed forces were classified as members of the Obama administration. Retired officers were coded as neutral absent any other affiliation.

Charts by Oliver Willis and Ben Dimiero. Hannah Groch-Begley contributed research to this report.

Show/Publication
FOX News Sunday, Meet the Press, This Week, Face the Nation
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