Blogs > HNN > Bipartisanship

Feb 14, 2009 11:44 am


Just a quick observation today. Bipartisanship WAS easier in the old days. Now that both parties are more ideologically unified it's harder for a president of one party to pick people off from the opposing party. On what basis can he do so? Sectionalism? On a few issues, perhaps, but that's all.

Back ton the old days? A Reagan could pick off conservative Democrats and claim therefore to have bipartisan support. But when the Dems are nearly all pretty liberal and the Repubs are pretty all nearly conservative, it's a lot harder to cross party lines.

Therefore Obama's approach is deeply flawed. There aren't members of the other party whom he can turn to for support out of ideological sympathy.

You want bipartisanshjip? Then restore the old party system. Put conservative Southerners back in the Democratic Party. Put Northeastern liberals back in the Republican Party.

Short of that, appeals to bipartisanship are doomed to fail (except in foreign affairs, where a national consensus may be possible on some critical issues).

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Mike A Mainello - 2/27/2009

Your comment is slightly misleading. The study was a "visual bias". They did not look at what was said by the reporters.

I have a feeling the book will sell well at colleges that require the book for a course. It will also sell well to family.

Who donates money for these type of studies?

HNN - 2/26/2009

Hi Maarja,

Well, I find myself agreeing with most of what you say.

I don't see that it undermines the basic point I was trying to make.


Jonathan Dresner - 2/24/2009

Another study, this one by Indiana University, suggests that TV News favored Republicans, 1992-2004.

I wish I was in a field where I could get grants and publication credit for studying the obvious....

Mike A Mainello - 2/17/2009

You call it baiting. I call it trying to have a conversation.

I guess you are not comfortable calling yourself a liberal. I enjoy your rants, they are quite funny and simplistic.

I am confident in being a conservative. I believe the USA occupies one of the unique places in history. It is sad what liberals are doing to this country and I will continue to work to correct it as best as one little person can.

Good night, Mr. D

Jonathan Dresner - 2/17/2009

If you believe they are shooting down the middle and the cited study is flawed hey, I wonder who is the lazy one.

I read them both.

As for "Democratic Operatives," if you really paid attention you'd have noticed that the foundation of the study -- the very core of its methodology -- relies on ratings of legislator liberality performed by avowedly liberal lobbyists.

Want to have it both ways? Pretty sloppy of you, but it's your brain. I don't have to live in it.

But stop guessing about my views: you don't know me and it's offensive. You're trying to bait me, I understand that, but it's a stupid tactic.

Mike A Mainello - 2/16/2009

You'll just have to excuse me for not wanting to believe a site that is funded by Democrat operatives.

If you believe they are shooting down the middle and the cited study is flawed hey, I wonder who is the lazy one.

I guess you also support the Obama Administration finding that Rahm did not have any substantial talks with impeached former Illinois governer B'vich. I also guess it is unbiased that George Step is unbiased even though he has daily calls with Democrat officials. I also think Chris Mathews is an unbiased journalist.

Come on don't kid yourself, of course MM ripped the study. They want to put the fairness doctorine back into practice, but then again I guess you also want it back.

Again I will ask, please explain to me what a liberal stands for, your core beliefs.

Maarja Krusten - 2/16/2009

Rick, I think there are differences in the composition of the parties now as opposed to back in Nixon's day or Reagan's day. Beyond that, we have industries now that thrive on drama and sometimes on division: talk radio and some cable tv shows. And purely political advocacy sites on the right and the left in the blogosphere which delight in demonizing or dehumanizing the opposition. But if you go out among ordinary people, at least in the area where I live, you don't see the fear of the "unlike" that such sites thrive on. I know a lot of people who have Republican and Democratic friends whom they like and respect for their differing values and principles. I'm one myself. (It's probably easier for me because I've been an Independent for 20 years and sometimes vote for candidates of one party and sometimes for the other.) But that world -- a world where there is no "Big Sort" (as Bill Bishop describes it) is not heard from often in the blogosphere or on talk radio or on some cable outlets. Other voices largely dominate public discourse.

In one of my favorite essays by a history blogger, Timothy Burke discussed whether there is value in learning about the "unlike." See

Dr. Burke noted that in public discourse, "The hardest challenge, in many ways, falls in the space in between the titular, symbolic Presidency and its interior deliberative work, in the way that the President and his officers operate within the public sphere, in how they formulate and present and defend policy in front of and in dialogue with the public. This is hard because it requires a very fine distinction between the voices that authentically speak from a habitus or perspective that’s at odds with the worldview of the President and his advisors and much more calculated and cynical bids at 'framing' that come from a well-oiled machine that approaches public dialogue as a pure instrument, as a zero-sum exercise which either advances or defeats narrow self-interests."

David Brooks discussed some related problems in a column in the New York Times in 2007. See the aptly named "A Still, Small Voice" at
Note there the passage Brooks quotes from the late Meg Greenfield's book about Washington.

I think some day historians and political scientists and social scientists will examine some of this as well as the actual composition of the parties in assessing this age.

Jonathan Dresner - 2/16/2009

I know MM is a liberal site (and I'm not surprised at your closeminded reaction, either), but this is not a case of subtleties: the MM analysis clearly and directly discusses what they see (and I see) as flaws in the study methodology, flaws which effectively invalidate the "surprising" conclusions which you cited.

Feel free to disagree with the critics, but to dismiss them without consideration is precisely the kind of lazy intellectual behavior you seem to project on us liberals.

Mike A Mainello - 2/16/2009

I have enjoyed our discussion, but I don't trust anything from Media Matters. At least the study was conducted by UCLA professors and they explained their methodolgy.

Jonathan Dresner - 2/16/2009

I've seen that study, now that you mention it. I didn't find it credible the first time -- for one thing, who says that our Congressional representatives actually represent a full political spectrum? And the ADA ratings are a pretty weak foundation on which to base an analysis of anything except the ADA (a self-described liberal lobbying group). There's a real circularity to the study that never sat well with me.

The most thorough commentary on it that I can find quickly is here.

I was a bit surprised by the O'Reilly and Limbaugh results, but if you read the study it shows that people who get news from multiple sources are actually the ones who score the best; I suspect that a lot of their listeners are there to get one extreme view, and get a lot of news from other sources as well. Of course, the same argument works on NPR listeners as well: the data as presented isn't detailed enough to distinguish.

Mike A Mainello - 2/16/2009

Thanks for the study, I enjoyed it. Who knew Rush Limbaugh and O'Reilly listeners were so smart.

I didn't expect you to answer the question. I always find liberals are better at doing things that feel good versus fixing problems. Liberals in general don't want to have to articulate their positions.

Media Bias Is Real, Finds UCLA Political Scientist
By Meg Sullivan | 12/14/2005 5:36:31 PM

While the editorial page of The Wall Street Journal is conservative, the newspaper's news pages are liberal, even more liberal than The New York Times. The Drudge Report may have a right-wing reputation, but it leans left. Coverage by public television and radio is conservative compared to the rest of the mainstream media. Meanwhile, almost all major media outlets tilt to the left.

These are just a few of the surprising findings from a UCLA-led study, which is believed to be the first successful attempt at objectively quantifying bias in a range of media outlets and ranking them accordingly.

"I suspected that many media outlets would tilt to the left because surveys have shown that reporters tend to vote more Democrat than Republican," said Tim Groseclose, a UCLA political scientist and the study's lead author. "But I was surprised at just how pronounced the distinctions are."

"Overall, the major media outlets are quite moderate compared to members of Congress, but even so, there is a quantifiable and significant bias in that nearly all of them lean to the left," said co‑author Jeffrey Milyo, University of Missouri economist and public policy scholar.

The results appear in the latest issue of the Quarterly Journal of Economics, which will become available in mid-December.

Groseclose and Milyo based their research on a standard gauge of a lawmaker's support for liberal causes. Americans for Democratic Action (ADA) tracks the percentage of times that each lawmaker votes on the liberal side of an issue. Based on these votes, the ADA assigns a numerical score to each lawmaker, where "100" is the most liberal and "0" is the most conservative. After adjustments to compensate for disproportionate representation that the Senate gives to low‑population states and the lack of representation for the District of Columbia, the average ADA score in Congress (50.1) was assumed to represent the political position of the average U.S. voter.

Groseclose and Milyo then directed 21 research assistants — most of them college students — to scour U.S. media coverage of the past 10 years. They tallied the number of times each media outlet referred to think tanks and policy groups, such as the left-leaning NAACP or the right-leaning Heritage Foundation.

Next, they did the same exercise with speeches of U.S. lawmakers. If a media outlet displayed a citation pattern similar to that of a lawmaker, then Groseclose and Milyo's method assigned both a similar ADA score.

"A media person would have never done this study," said Groseclose, a UCLA political science professor, whose research and teaching focuses on the U.S. Congress. "It takes a Congress scholar even to think of using ADA scores as a measure. And I don't think many media scholars would have considered comparing news stories to congressional speeches."

Of the 20 major media outlets studied, 18 scored left of center, with CBS' "Evening News," The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times ranking second, third and fourth most liberal behind the news pages of The Wall Street Journal.

Only Fox News' "Special Report With Brit Hume" and The Washington Times scored right of the average U.S. voter.

The most centrist outlet proved to be the "NewsHour With Jim Lehrer." CNN's "NewsNight With Aaron Brown" and ABC's "Good Morning America" were a close second and third.

"Our estimates for these outlets, we feel, give particular credibility to our efforts, as three of the four moderators for the 2004 presidential and vice-presidential debates came from these three news outlets — Jim Lehrer, Charlie Gibson and Gwen Ifill," Groseclose said. "If these newscasters weren't centrist, staffers for one of the campaign teams would have objected and insisted on other moderators."

The fourth most centrist outlet was "Special Report With Brit Hume" on Fox News, which often is cited by liberals as an egregious example of a right-wing outlet. While this news program proved to be right of center, the study found ABC's "World News Tonight" and NBC's "Nightly News" to be left of center. All three outlets were approximately equidistant from the center, the report found.

"If viewers spent an equal amount of time watching Fox's 'Special Report' as ABC's 'World News' and NBC's 'Nightly News,' then they would receive a nearly perfectly balanced version of the news," said Milyo, an associate professor of economics and public affairs at the University of Missouri at Columbia.

Five news outlets — "NewsHour With Jim Lehrer," ABC's "Good Morning America," CNN's "NewsNight With Aaron Brown," Fox News' "Special Report With Brit Hume" and the Drudge Report — were in a statistical dead heat in the race for the most centrist news outlet. Of the print media, USA Today was the most centrist.

An additional feature of the study shows how each outlet compares in political orientation with actual lawmakers. The news pages of The Wall Street Journal scored a little to the left of the average American Democrat, as determined by the average ADA score of all Democrats in Congress (85 versus 84). With scores in the mid-70s, CBS' "Evening News" and The New York Times looked similar to Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., who has an ADA score of 74.

Most of the outlets were less liberal than Lieberman but more liberal than former Sen. John Breaux, D-La. Those media outlets included the Drudge Report, ABC's "World News Tonight," NBC's "Nightly News," USA Today, NBC's "Today Show," Time magazine, U.S. News & World Report, Newsweek, NPR's "Morning Edition," CBS' "Early Show" and The Washington Post.

Since Groseclose and Milyo were more concerned with bias in news reporting than opinion pieces, which are designed to stake a political position, they omitted editorials and Op‑Eds from their tallies. This is one reason their study finds The Wall Street Journal more liberal than conventional wisdom asserts.

Another finding that contradicted conventional wisdom was that the Drudge Report was slightly left of center.

"One thing people should keep in mind is that our data for the Drudge Report was based almost entirely on the articles that the Drudge Report lists on other Web sites," said Groseclose. "Very little was based on the stories that Matt Drudge himself wrote. The fact that the Drudge Report appears left of center is merely a reflection of the overall bias of the media."

Yet another finding that contradicted conventional wisdom relates to National Public Radio, often cited by conservatives as an egregious example of a liberal news outlet. But according to the UCLA-University of Missouri study, it ranked eighth most liberal of the 20 that the study examined.

"By our estimate, NPR hardly differs from the average mainstream news outlet," Groseclose said. "Its score is approximately equal to those of Time, Newsweek and U.S. News & World Report and its score is slightly more conservative than The Washington Post's. If anything, government‑funded outlets in our sample have a slightly lower average ADA score (61), than the private outlets in our sample (62.8)."

The researchers took numerous steps to safeguard against bias — or the appearance of same — in the work, which took close to three years to complete. They went to great lengths to ensure that as many research assistants supported Democratic candidate Al Gore in the 2000 election as supported President George Bush. They also sought no outside funding, a rarity in scholarly research.

"No matter the results, we feared our findings would've been suspect if we'd received support from any group that could be perceived as right- or left-leaning, so we consciously decided to fund this project only with our own salaries and research funds that our own universities provided," Groseclose said.

The results break new ground.

"Past researchers have been able to say whether an outlet is conservative or liberal, but no one has ever compared media outlets to lawmakers," Groseclose said. "Our work gives a precise characterization of the bias and relates it to known commodity — politicians."


Jonathan Dresner - 2/16/2009

Here's my study. Where's yours?

I can tell you what a liberal believes -- me -- but I'm not going to answer any of your questions. It's a nice schtick, but it's not worth my time.

Mike A Mainello - 2/16/2009

I am sorry that I missed that study, could you please provide me a link to it, I would love to read it.

What exactly is a liberal? It is a question I have asked myself and as a conservative I don't really understand what you believe in, what are your core beliefs?

I mean many of you are very well educated and I assume you worked hard for your degree, but at the same time you are willing to give a higher education to someone that clearly does not want to work for it.

Many of your children attend fine private schools, but you don't want poor people to have the same opportunity through school choice.

You want to take other peoples money and give a hand out, but hate to see a conservative give some one a hand up.

You trust the government to re-distribute the wealth from people that earned it and provide health care to everyone, but don't trust the government to protect us from foreign enemies.

Most of you even want to legalize many drugs, but want to outlaw smoking and trans-fat.

You believe in free speech as long as it is your speech, but if someone disagrees well that is another matter.

I mean please explain to me what a liberal really believes.

You have a good evening, because I don't believe you really have an answer.

Jonathan Dresner - 2/15/2009

A recent study found that the Fox evening news was the most neutral of major new organizations.

So, for half an hour a day, they're only slightly biased. Stopped clocks....

The last study I saw showed that Fox news viewers scored the lowest on factual tests of current and recent events; NPR listeners scored near the top, along with newspaper readers.

I see plenty of reportage on Obama's difficulty with cabinet picks, more reportage on Rezko than the facts justified (and a lot less reportage on similar issues with regard to McCain, Palin, etc.)

Mike A Mainello - 2/15/2009

Wow, NPR is fair and balanced, but become more conservative.

Fox is an internet Troll.

I understand your bias now.

A recent study found that the Fox evening news was the most neutral of major new organizations. They said it did lean a bit conservative, but was the most balanced of all.

I know you will scoff and scream, but thems the facts.

By the way, Mr. Obama seems to have an excellent track record picking troubled cabinet choices. Maybe he was just trying to get another politician to do his patriotic duty and pay his taxes. And Mr. Obama did not have any questionable ties with Tony Rezko.

Jonathan Dresner - 2/15/2009

Ah, the "you're so emotional" gambit. Also the "focus shift." Nice.

Senator Gregg pulled his nomination because of pressure from the Republicans who were concerned about the Obama administration's success. It's also likely that the vetting process wasn't going well: evidence of connections between Gregg's aides and Abramoff have come out recently. I suspect he might also have had concerns about how his role in the administration would play out, and that's certainly the public line, but you'd think that he would have had those discussions before accepting the nomination, getting a replacment appointed, etc.

I think there are many different aspects to media bias. It's misogynistic, but tends a little socially liberal otherwise; it's economically fairly free market and politically mostly conservative, giving Republicans a lot of rhetorical leeway but holding Democrats to a high standard of fact-checking, etc.; Fox News and the Washington Times are the journalistic equivalent of internet trolls; NPR is the closest thing we have to a fairly balanced and competent national media outlet, but it's gotten a lot more conservative under the Bush administration.

Mike A Mainello - 2/15/2009

Such anger, a party official (Rove or Dean) would want one party rule. I would be surprised if either party wanted divided government. By their nature, they are partisan.

I believe if you don't come to the table, how can you know there is not a genuine commitment on bi-partisan negotian. I have to give the republicans a nod because they did try and negotiate. They backed out when they believed negotiations were not going anywhere. This is also the same reason that Senator Judd pulled his nomination for Commerce Secretary.

I would be interested in your opinion on news coverage. Is it skewed to one party or line of thought or do you find it un-biased?

Jonathan Dresner - 2/14/2009

I don't actually agree with your premise: there's some pretty substantial differences within the parties, especially if you look beyond the pasteurized Senate.

The problem isn't ideological unity: it's financial unity and the resulting party discipline.

Jonathan Dresner - 2/14/2009

Single party rule is dangerous and we are headed in that direction.

I don't remember hearing lines like this when Rove was touting his "permanent majority."

As for the rest of it, picking on the issues where Democrats didn't cross party lines (and since when was Robert Redford an elected democratic official?) because they saw no good faith negotiations being offered, ignores the many critical moments when they did -- USA PATRIOT, Iraq authorization, budget after supplemental budget after budget after supplemental budget, etc.

Mike A Mainello - 2/14/2009

Rick, I agree with you. And yes I am a conservative.

I remember 2 instances where President Bush was slapped down trying to be bi-partisan. First, he asked Robert Redford to join an environmental panel or commission and Mr. Redford told him to take a hike - very publicly. Second was Social Security Reform. He tried to get both parties to come to the table and discuss reforms. The democrats refused to even discuss any privatization. Now even if you don't agree with privatization, you should at least come to the table and see what can be worked out.

There are numerous examples where President Bush came to congress and tried to get Freddie and Fannie reformed so the credit problem could be avoided. He was rebuffed. Maybe he didn't have the political capitol to push it through, but he tried and was shot down. Now he is taking the blame and the US economy is paying the price.

I believe your background is in journalism. The US needs an independent 4th Estate to report facts and leave the editorials to the proper section of the newspaper.

If the news media does not return to reporting, then this country is in trouble. Single party rule is dangerous and we are headed in that direction.