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Is the media liberal? An indirect test using news magazine circulation

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Many critics allege that the US national news media is biased in favour of liberal causes and Democratic candidates. The lack of an objective measure of news content ensures that such charges remain controversial. I consider an indirect test for media bias: if the national news media do exhibit a liberal bias, consumption should be higher in liberal media markets, ceteris paribus. I examine determinants of circulation of the three major weekly news magazines across the US and find that Newsweek and Time have higher circulation in liberal markets while US News has higher circulation in conservative markets. The evidence is consistent with a liberal bias for Time and Newsweek, while US News may be relatively conservative (but still left of centre) or absolutely conservative.

Keywords: D72; K2; L82; News media; first Amendment; magazines; media bias

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Department of Economics,Johnson Center for Political Economy, Sorrell College of Business, Troy UniversityTroyAL 36082, USA

Publication date: September 1, 2012

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