Groseclose and Milyo also look at the political orientation of journalists relative to the population. They note that just 7 percent of journalists voted for George H.W. Bush in 1992 versus 37 of the voting public. This means that journalists are more liberal than voters in the most liberal congressional district in the United States, the 9th district in California, which contains the city of Berkeley. Even there, Bush got 12 percent of the vote, almost twice his support among journalists.
The curious question is why the media remain so persistently liberal. Economic theory says that conservative news outlets should have come into existence to serve that market. However, Professor Daniel Sutter of the University of Oklahoma points out that there are severe barriers to entry into the news business that make it very difficult to start a new newspaper or television network, thus allowing liberal bias to perpetuate itself.
Another answer comes from a study by Professor David Baron of Stanford. He theorizes that profit-maximizing corporations tolerate liberal bias because it allows them to pay lower wages to liberal journalists. By being allowed to exercise their bias, they are willing to accept less pay than they would demand if they were in a business where bias was not tolerated. Conservatives are perhaps less willing to pay such a financial price.
Writing in the summer issue of The Public Interest, Professor William Mayer of Northwestern suggests that conservatives have adopted talk radio, which is overwhelmingly conservative, as an alternative news outlet. In other words, a key reason for the popularity of people like Rush Limbaugh is that they provide news and information not available elsewhere, not just conservative opinion.
This helps explain why liberal talk radio has been such a dismal failure. Listeners are not getting much they can't already get in the dominant media. In Mayer's words, "Liberals, in short, do not need talk radio. They already have Dan Rather, Peter Jennings and Tom Brokaw -- not to mention NPR."
The dominant media is finally starting to realize that it has an economic problem from having a perceived liberal bias, even though it steadfastly denies any such bias. Editor and Publisher, an industry publication, is so alarmed that it has begun a study of the problem.
Bruce Bartlett is a former senior fellow with the National Center for Policy Analysis of Dallas, Texas. Bartlett is a prolific author, having published over 900 articles in national publications, and prominent magazines and published four books, including Reaganomics: Supply-Side Economics in Action.
Be the first to read Bruce Bartlett's column. Sign up today and receive Townhall.com delivered each morning to your inbox.