REPORT: The Demographics Of The Sunday Morning Political Talk Shows

A Media Matters review of the Sunday morning political talk shows finds that white males largely dominated the guest lists in 2013. MSNBC's Melissa Harris-Perry and Up with Steve Kornacki achieved greater ethnic and gender diversity than the broadcast shows or CNN's State of the Union. Overall, conservatives outnumbered progressives on the four broadcast Sunday morning shows.

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. This item will be updated as Media Matters releases additional analysis of the 2013 gender, ethnicity, and ideological demographics of the guests.

White Men Dominate Sunday Morning Shows

White Men Represented The Largest Proportion Of Guests On Every Show. On the four broadcast shows and CNN, white men represented a majority of all guests: 60 percent on This Week, 67 percent on Face the Nation, 67 percent on Fox News Sunday, 62 percent on Meet the Press, and 54 percent on State of the Union. On Up and Melissa Harris-Perry, white men represented a plurality of guests at 42 percent and 27 percent, respectively. Melissa Harris-Perry deserves special mention for having a much more diverse guest list than the other programs; 26 percent of guests were African-American women, 20 percent were African-American men, and 16 percent were white women. Up also featured significantly more women and people of color than CNN or the broadcast shows. Latino, Asian-American, and Middle Eastern guests continued to rank in the single digits or not at all among every show.

White Men Represented The Largest Proportion Of Solo Interviews. On broadcast and CNN, white men were the largest proportion of guests given a one-on-one interview with the host by a significant margin: 68 percent of solo interviews on This Week were given to white men, 76 percent on Face the Nation, 72 percent on Fox News Sunday, 73 percent on Meet the Press, and 73 percent on State of the Union. Only Melissa Harris-Perry featured a significant proportion of solo interviews with non-white guests, largely African-Americans. Few Latinos and almost no Asian-Americans or Middle Eastern guests received solo interviews. Up did not conduct enough solo interviews in the period studied to be included in the chart.

White Men Were Overrepresented On Broadcast And CNN. Using the most recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau, white men were hosted at more than double their proportion of the U.S. population on the broadcast shows -- 64 percent on broadcast compared to 31 percent in the population. White men were also overrepresented on CNN at 54 percent. Women of color were significantly underrepresented on broadcast -- only 5 percent of guests were women of color compared to 19 percent in the population. Only MSNBC -- due primarily to Melissa Harris-Perry - hosted its guests closer to their representation in the population. White women were underrepresented on all shows.

More Than 70 Percent Of Broadcast And CNN Guests Were Men. Men were fully three-quarters of all guests on the four broadcast shows and 71 percent of the guests on CNN. By contrast, on the MSNBC programs, men made up 56 percent of guests.

White People Were An Overwhelming Majority Of Broadcast And CNN Guests. On the four broadcast shows, 84 percent of guests were white. On CNN, 73 percent of guests were white. White people still held a majority on MSNBC, representing 54 percent of guests.

Top Ten Solo Interview Guests Are All Men, Only One Person Of Color. The ten guests who received the most solo guest appearances on the Sunday morning shows were all men (the list below includes 11 individuals because three guests tied with eight appearances each). Only one non-white guest, Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), made the top ten.

Ideological Gap: Conservatives Outnumber Progressives On Broadcast Shows

White, Conservative Men Were the Largest Demographic Group On The Broadcast Sunday Morning Shows. On the four broadcast shows, white, conservative men represented more than a quarter of all guests at 29 percent. White, progressive men represented close to half that amount at 15 percent. White, neutral men represented 23 percent. All other groups were in the single digits.

On Broadcast Shows, Republicans And Conservatives Hosted More Often Than Democrats And Progressives Overall. On three of the four broadcast shows, Republicans and conservatives were brought on as guests more often than Democrats and progressives: 49 percent of guests on Fox News Sunday were from the right while only 27 percent were from the left, 28 percent of guests on Face the Nation were from the right while 21 percent were from the left, and 37 percent of guests on Meet the Press were from the right while 34 percent were from the left.This Week was the only show to host guests on the right and left evenly at 31 percent for each.


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, Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday, CNN's State of the Union with Candy Crowley, and the Sunday editions of MSNBC's Up with Steve Kornacki (previously Up with Chris Hayes prior to April 13, 2013) and Melissa Harris-Perry during 2013. Guest appearances for all seven programs were coded for gender, ethnicity, and whether guests appeared in solo interviews or as part of a panel. Guests appearing on the four broadcast networks were also coded for 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.