A new survey by the Pew Research Center says journalists have political and ideological leanings more liberal than those of the general public. Or, as a sensible headline might have put it: "Researchers ferret out the obvious yet again.? One amused blogger wrote: ?In other news, a second Pew study shows that the Earth is round and that the government?s habit of taxing its citizens is likely to continue.?
Pew reports that just 7 percent of journalists and news executives call themselves conservative, compared with 33 percent of the general public. The self-identified liberals (34 percent) are five times more common as conservatives in the news business. As you might imagine, this got very little play in the mainstream media. Howard Kurtz did a good job with it at the Washington Post. But that was about it. Those who did report or comment on the survey tended to play up the large number of news people (54 percent) who call themselves moderate. Why is it such a big deal to have a newsroom that?s only a third liberal? asked Eric Alterman, author of What Liberal Media?
I would say that the big deal is that media workers are becoming more liberal at a fairly rapid pace -- up from 22 percent nine years ago to 34 percent now, according to Pew. It would be a bigger deal if the hiring of liberals reached the point (as it has in the academic world) where conservatives don?t bother to apply for jobs. Immoderate.
In addition, there is debate over what ?moderate? means in the survey. My experience is that liberal journalists tend to think of themselves as representing the mainstream, so in these self-identification polls, ?moderate? usually translates to ?liberal.? On the few social questions asked in the survey, most of the moderates sounded fairly liberal. Asked whether homosexuality should be approved of by society, 88 percent of journalists agreed, compared with only 51 percent of Americans.
Some 82 percent of the journalists were able to list a news organization that was ?especially conservative? (most named Fox News), but an amazing 62 percent could not name any news organization that struck them as ?especially liberal.? Good grief. Even 60 percent of the Homer Simpson family could probably figure out that the New York Times or National Public Radio qualify as liberal.