REPORT: Once Again, Sunday Morning Talk Shows Are White, Male, And Conservative

In the first nine months of 2013, white men dominated the guest lists on the broadcast network Sunday shows and CNN's State of the Union. MSNBC was the only network achieving notable diversity in its guests, particularly on Melissa Harris-Perry's show. Republicans and conservatives are hosted significantly more on the broadcast Sunday shows than Democrats and progressives.

Media Matters has continued its monitoring of the Sunday morning talk shows on broadcast and cable networks. Following up on our previous studies, we've added data for July, August, and September to the existing data collected for the first six months of this year on ABC's This Week with George Stephanopoulos, CBS' Face the Nation, Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace, NBC's Meet the Press, CNN's State of the Union with Candy Crowley, and MSNBC's Up with Steve Kornacki and Melissa Harris-Perry. Unless otherwise specified all charts and analysis below are based on the full nine months of data.

The White Male Stranglehold On The Sunday Shows

White Men Still Represent The Largest Proportion Of Guests Except On Melissa Harris-Perry. Six of the seven shows analyzed -- This Week, Face the Nation, Fox News Sunday, Meet the Press, State of the Union, and Up -- have hosted white men at a significantly higher rate than their 31 percent portion of the population. Melissa Harris-Perry provided the greatest diversity among guests, providing a much higher rate of white women and African-American guests than the other programs; Up also hosted a higher percentage of people from those demographics than CNN or the broadcast programs. Latino, Asian-American, and Middle Eastern guests have been largely absent from the Sunday shows. Native Americans fared even worse, with only two appearances (one on Melissa Harris-Perry and one on Up) out of a total of 2,436 appearances over the nine-month period studied.

White Men Were An Even Larger Proportion Of Solo Interviews. On the broadcast Sunday shows and CNN, white men were most often hosted for one-on-one interviews by a significant margin. 75 percent of Face the Nation and Fox News Sunday solo interview subjects were white men. Once again, only Melissa Harris-Perry demonstrated any reasonable diversity in this measure. Guests who were Latino, Asian-American, or Middle Eastern were hardly present at all. No Native American has received a one-on-one interview this year. Up did not have enough solo interviews in the period studied to be included in the comparison.

White Men Still Overrepresented On Broadcast And CNN. When compared to U.S. Census data, white men on broadcast and CNN were hosted signficantly more than their representation in the general population. Only MSNBC had guest proportions more closely matching the census data.

Gender Diversity Still Abysmal On Broadcast And CNN. Our data shows little difference between gender representation over the last three months and over the year. MSNBC, to its credit, has hosted women at a much closer parity to men than the other networks.

Ethnic Diversity Improved Over The Course Of The Year. While the first three months of 2013 were particularly problematic for broadcast and CNN, This Week, Face the Nation, Fox News Sunday, and Meet the Press have made marginal improvements over the last three months, where the proportion of white guests dropped slightly from 85 percent in the second quarter to 80 percent in the third quarter. State of the Union, though, has made significant improvements over the last six months, dropping the proportion of white guests from 83 percent in the first quarter to 64 percent in the third quarter. MSNBC continued to provide the most ethnically diverse programming in the period studied.

Broadcast Networks Continued To Host A Majority Of White Men. While dropping slightly from 66 percent to 62 percent between the first and third quarters of 2013, the proportion of white men on broadcast continued to be significantly higher than the proportion of all other guests. CNN maintained its improvement from quarters one to two, with its split between white men and all other guests being about equal. And MSNBC was still the best performing network as far as gender and ethnicity diversity in this measure, with only 31 percent of guests -- the same proportion of white men in the U.S. Census data -- being white men in the third quarter of 2013.

The Conservative Advantage On The Sunday Shows

White, Conservative Men Still Made Up The Largest Proportion Of All Guests. White, conservative men were hosted on the Sunday shows more than any other demographic by a large margin. Twenty-eight percent of guests were white, conservative men. The next largest group -- white, neutral men -- were only 19 percent of guests by comparison.

White, Conservative Men Were An Even Larger Proportion of Solo Interviews. More than one-third of all solo interviews were with a white, conservative man. The next largest group -- white, progressive men -- were only hosted about one-fifth of the time.

Broadcast Sunday Shows Still Hosted A Republican And Conservative Majority. The data collected over the last three months was very similar to the data collected during the entire nine-month period studied. Overall, Republicans and conservatives enjoyed a significant advantage on Fox News Sunday and slight advantages on Face the Nation and Meet the Press.

Panels Still Likely To Host More Conservatives Than Progressives. During segments with two or more guests, all four broadcast Sunday shows were more likely to have Republicans and conservatives outnumber their Democratic and progressive counterparts. Fox News Sunday's panel disparity was particularly striking, with 44 percent of all panels tilting right and only 4 percent tilting left.

Elected And Administration Guests More Likely To Be Republicans Than Democrats. Representatives, senators, governors, members of the President's administration, and other elected officials hosted on the broadcast Sunday shows were more likely to be Republican. On Fox News Sunday and Face the Nation, Republicans outnumbered Democrats -- significantly so on Fox News Sunday. Meet the Press hosted nearly the same number of Democrats and Republicans while This Week was the only show to host more Democrats.

Conservative Journalists Outnumber Progressives On Broadcast. Again, Fox News Sunday was particularly egregious, with 46 percent of all journalists being conservative while only 16 percent were progressive. Conservative journalists led on This Week (22 percent to 12 percent), Meet the Press (21 percent to 13 percent), and Face the Nation (7 percent to 1 percent).

Republicans And Conservatives Received More Time During Solo Interviews. On three of the broadcast shows -- Face the Nation, Fox News Sunday, and Meet the Press -- Republicans and conservatives received more time than Democrats and progressives for one-on-one interviews. Again, Fox News Sunday's disparity was particularly striking: 60 percent of time spent on solo interviews went to Republicans and conservatives while only 19 percent went to Democrats and progressives.

Republican Elected Guests Received More Time During Solo Interviews Than Democratic Elected And Administration Guests. While not as pronounced as all solo interview guests, a similar disparity was present for elected and administration guests' solo interview time. Again, on Fox News Sunday, Face the Nation, and Meet the Press, Republicans received more time for solo interviews than Democrats, with Fox News Sunday still having the largest disparity of any broadcast show.

Ranked By Time Received, Seven Of The Top Ten Guests For Solo Interviews Were Republicans. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) led with more than two and a half hours of time received for his solo interviews, which numbered 17 in total, much more than any other guest in the full nine-month period studied. The top Democrat in this ranking was White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, who received nearly an hour less time than McCain for solo interviews.

Guest Alignment Number Of Solo Interviews Total Time (H:M:S)
John McCain R 17 2:33:15
Rand Paul R 11 1:46:34
Denis McDonough D 9 1:39:33
Paul Ryan R 6 1:17:34
Dan Pfeiffer D 7 1:14:32
Mike Rogers R 10 1:11:43
Marco Rubio R 6 1:10:25
Ted Cruz R 6 1:07:18
Mitch McConnell R 6 1:04:50
Nancy Pelosi D 6 1:00:47


We reviewed every edition of ABC's This Week with George Stephanopoulos, CBS' Face The Nation, NBC's Meet The Press, 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 the first nine months of 2013. Guest appearances for all seven programs were coded for gender and ethnicity. Guests appearing on the four broadcast networks were also coded for whether they 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.

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.