Study Finds Media Overwhelmingly Repeat GOP “Job Killer” Allegations With No Verification

Media have overwhelmingly repeated claims by Republican politicians and corporations that government policies are “job killers” without citing any evidence for this claim according to a new study. And today's news reporting demonstrates the study's point.

Occidental College professor Peter Dreier and University of Northern Iowa professor Christopher Martin found media stories in The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, The New York Times, and the Associated Press with the phrase “job killer” have spiked since President Obama took office and that since 1984, “in 91.6% of the stories alleging that a government policy was or would be a 'job killer,' the media failed to cite any evidence for this claim or to quote an authoritative source with any evidence for this claim.”

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Dreier and Martin pointed out that "[w]ith little or no fact checking of 'job killer' allegations, Americans have no way to know if there is any evidence for these claims."

The study also found that the majority of these stories involved allegations by Republicans or business spokespersons, and that the phrase was used most often to attack tax policies, health care reform, and policies to protect the environment, workers, or consumers.

The study findings are borne out by the facts. A study from NYU's Institute for Policy Integrity found that usage of the phrase “job-killing regulation” in newspapers has increased 17,550% between 2007 and 2011. And media figures have indeed thrown around the phrase “job killers” or similar terms to attack progressive government policies. Furthermore, media figures have repeatedly launched misleading attacks on Obama's jobs record.

The study states that even in the rare cases in which the media provided an opposing viewpoint to the Republican and corporate “job killer” claims, news stories still failed to provide any evidence as to whether the “job killer” claim was accurate:

In 91.6% (349 of 381) news reports analyzed, news organizations provided no evidence to support the “job killer” claim. (See Figure 7.) Even in the 8.4% (32 of 381) of the stories in which some evidence was supplied, it's not clear whether or not journalists investigated the veracity of the evidence cited.

Similarly, in only 6.8% (26) of the 381 stories did reporters provide an alternative claim. In most issues, there are at least two sides to a story. In the case of “job killer” allegations news organizations typically report only one side. Even in the stories that carried alternative claims -- in other words, that reported that some organization or expert challenged the “job killer” allegation -- reporters provided evidence to back up challenges to the “job killer” claim in only 8 stories. Thus, in 18 of the 26 alternative claim cases, there was just a competing claim with no supporting evidence.

Today's coverage of the economic messages from Obama and Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney illustrates how merely quoting a source who disagrees with the “job killer” claim is inadequate. Yesterday Romney attacked the Obama administration for supposedly pursuing the “most anti-investment, anti-business, anti-jobs series of policies in modern American history.”

The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and the Associated Press each quoted Romney's attack. The outlets also reported on Obama's statements about the economy and the Times, Post, and AP quoted Obama campaign spokeswoman Lis Smith calling Romney's claim dishonest. Smith stated: “Contrary to Romney's rhetoric, the president took our nation from losing 750,000 jobs a month to adding 4.3 million private-sector jobs over the last 27 months.”

But none of the articles tried to determine the accuracy of Romney's attack on Obama's investment, business, and jobs record. The private sector was indeed bleeding jobs when Obama came to office but has added about 4.3 million jobs in the past 27 months. Moreover, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that between 200,000 and 1.5 million jobs were created or retained as a direct result of the stimulus through the first quarter of 2012. Independent analyses also found that the stimulus increased employment by millions of jobs and raised the U.S. Gross Domestic Product.

Readers of the Journal, Times, Post, and AP articles, however, were not given this information in order to determine the inaccuracy of Romney's attack.