Research/Study Research/Study

Sunday shows' signature panels continue to privilege conservative voices

Conservative-leaning Sunday show panels are more than five times as common as left-leaning panels

  • There were over five times as many right-leaning signature panels on the major Sunday political news shows as left-leaning panels in the first half of 2019, according to a Media Matters study. Across the Sunday shows on ABC, CBS, CNN, Fox Broadcasting, and NBC, 33% of panels included more conservative than progressive guests, while just 6% of panels tilted left. Of the remaining panels, 61%, were balanced, featuring the same number of left-leaning and right-leaning guests.

    Ideological tilt of signature panels on Sunday shows

    NBC’s Meet the Press continued to be the most ideologically imbalanced show in the study, which ran from January 6 through June 30: It featured right-leaning panels 63% of the time and left-leaning panels just 8% of the time. In total, 15 out of its 24 panels tilted right, just two leaned to the left, and seven were balanced.

    Conservative panels outweighed both neutral and left-leaning panels on Fox News Sunday as well: 50% of the panels tilted right while just 8% tilted left. In total, 13 out of 26 panels were right-leaning, two leaned left, and 11 panels were balanced.

    ABC’s This Week and CBS’ Face the Nation tended to favor neutral guest panels. However, right-leaning panels on these shows still outnumbered left-leaning ones. Seven panels on This Week were right-leaning (27%), two were left-leaning (8%), and 17 were balanced (65%). On Face the Nation, five panels were right-leaning (23%), just one was left-leaning (5%), and 16 were balanced (73%).

    CNN’s State of the Union has consistently featured two right-leaning and two left-leaning guests on all of its 2019 panels so far. While the panels were balanced, it’s worth noting that there wasn’t a single neutral guest on the show’s panels.

    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    The makeup of these Sunday show panels follows a long-established trend on these shows of privileging conservative voices. As we approach the 2020 election, it is increasingly important that Sunday shows correct their partisan imbalance, which threatens to distort voters’ understanding of the political landscape.

    ​Correction (9/13/19): This piece previously featured an inaccurately labeled chart. It labeled 61.5% of panels as tilted right and 32.8% as balanced; it should have said the opposite. It has been replaced with an accurate version.​


    Media Matters reviewed transcripts of every edition of ABC’s This Week, CBS’ Face the Nation, NBC’s Meet the Press, Fox Broadcasting Co.’s Fox News Sunday, and CNN’s State of the Union from January 6 through June 30, 2019. We coded guest appearances on the signature panels for all five programs for political ideology, labeling the guests as Democratic/progressive, Republican/conservative, or neutral. We classified guests based on either their own ideological self-identification or their public affiliation with an openly partisan or ideological organization or institution. The neutral category does not necessarily imply strict ideological neutrality but, rather, might be better understood as neutral/centrist/nonpartisan -- we use the term “neutral” for the sake of brevity.

    We coded panels as tilting left when the number of guests who were Democratic or progressive outnumbered guests who were Republican or conservative; we coded panels as tilting right when the number of guests who were Republican or conservative outnumbered guests who were Democratic or progressive; and we coded panels as balanced when Democratic and progressive guests numbered equally with Republican and conservative guests. Neutral guests did not affect a panel's tilt. We looked only at each show’s signature, or primary, panel.