REPORT: Partisanship And Diversity On The Sunday Shows In 9 Charts

The four broadcast networks' Sunday morning political talk shows guests skewed right during the first quarter of 2013. MSNBC's two Sunday programs featured far greater gender and ethnic diversity in its guests than the broadcast programs and CNN's Sunday morning political talk show.

Republicans And Conservatives Dominate Broadcast Networks' Sunday Show Guest Lineups

Broadcast Networks Hosted Republican And Conservative Guests Most Often. Out of 400 total guests hosted by ABC's This Week, CBS' Face the Nation, NBC's Meet the Press, and Fox's Fox News Sunday during the first three months of 2013, 40 percent were either Republicans or conservatives while only 29 percent were Democrats or progressives. Centrist, nonpartisan, and ideologically neutral guests made up 31 percent. 

Each Network Hosted More Guests From The Right Than The Left. Republicans and conservatives outpaced Democrats and progressives on all four networks. Fox News Sunday had the largest discrepancy, with 53 percent of guests being Republicans or conservatives and only 24 percent being Democrats or progressives.

Elected Republicans Were Hosted More Often Than Elected Democrats And Obama Administration Officials. Except for Face the Nation, elected Republicans were featured on the Sunday shows significantly more often than elected Democrats and Obama administration officials combined. Again, Fox News Sunday was the worst offender, with 67 percent of guests in this category being Republicans.

Elected Republicans Featured In More Solo Interviews Than Elected Democrats and Obama Administration Officials. On Fox News Sunday and Meet the Press particularly, Republicans received significantly more solo interviews than Democrats. When adjusting for the amount of time devoted to interviewees as opposed to the raw number of interviews, the contrast between Republicans and Democrats grows even larger on Meet The Press. And while Face the Nation has given more solo interviews to Democrats, that lead shrinks when accounting for the amount of time devoted to interviewees. This Week -- despite hosting more Republicans for solo interviews than Democrats in raw number -- gave Democrats more total time during their interviews.

Four Of The Top Five Guests With The Most Solo Interviews Were Republicans. Leading the pack was Senator John McCain (R-AZ) and former Republican Governor Jeb Bush with five solo interviews each. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Paul Ryan (R-WI), and senior Obama advisor David Plouffe round out the top five with four interviews each.

Partisan And Ideological Journalists Were More Likely To Be Conservative Than Progressive. While a majority of journalists, pundits, and commentators on these programs were neutral, when partisan and ideological journalists were hosted, they were much more likely to be conservative nearly across the board. Once again, this disparity was especially true on Fox News Sunday, where 47 percent of journalist guests were conservative. 

Imbalanced Panels Overwhelmingly Tilted To The Right. On all four networks, when roundtable and panel discussions were imbalanced, they were far more likely to be tilted in favor of conservatives. Fox News Sunday was the worst again, with 65 percent of panels having more conservative guests than progressives and none having more progressive guests than conservatives. 

MSNBC Provides Greater Guest Diversity Than Broadcast Networks, CNN

MSNBC's Sunday Shows Hosted Significantly More Women Than Those Of The Broadcast Networks Or CNN's State Of The Union. Melissa Harris-Perry and Up with Chris Hayes hosted women 45 percent and 38 percent of the time, respectively. Meet the Press was the worst in this category; only 20 percent of the program's guests were women.

MSNBC's Guests Were Much More Ethnically Diverse Than Broadcast Shows Or CNN. Melissa Harris-Perry was the only show to host a majority of non-white guests -- 39 percent of guests were African-American, 4 percent were Latino, 4 percent were Asian-American, and 1 were percent Arab-American. Up was still significantly more diverse than broadcast and CNN, with 37 percent of guests being non-white. No other program had a guest pool that was less than 82 percent white; Fox News Sunday was the least ethnically diverse, with 91 percent of guests being white.

MSNBC's Programs Were The Only Ones Not Dominated By White Men. Both Melissa Harris-Perry and Up hosted white men closer to their representation in the general population (approximately 31 percent*, according to U.S. Census data). By contrast, white men were significantly overrepresented on the broadcast and CNN Sunday shows.


This study followed the same methodology as the previous Media Matters study, "If It's Sunday, It's Still Conservative."

We reviewed every edition of ABC's This Week, CBS' Face The Nation, NBC's Meet The Press, Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday, CNN's State of the Union, and the Sunday editions of MSNBC's Up with Chris Hayes and Melissa Harris-Perry during the first quarter 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.

*This report originally stated that white men represented 39 percent of the U.S. general population. The correct figure is 31 percent. Media Matters regrets the error.

Ben Dimiero, Eric Hananoki, and Oliver Willis provided additional research. Charts by Alan Pyke.