Over-the-top claims about politics: one more time

I’d like to see Paul Krugman’s evidence for this claim:

What really happened in the final months of [the 2000] election? The answer — not a popular one with journalists, but very obviously true to anyone who lived through it — was that the press took sides. Reporters liked Bush and didn’t like Gore, and as a result they treated Bush with kid gloves while gleefully passing on every smear against his opponent.

Far be it from me to question something that was “obviously true to anyone who lived through it”—as a non-T.V. owner, I think it’s safe to say that I did not actually live through the 2000 election campaign—but . . . really??? Even if it’s true that reporters liked Bush and didn’t like Gore (again, I’d like to see the evidence [added later: see comments and my P.P.S. and P.P.P.S. below!]), one thing we do know is that twice as many journalists are Democrats as Republicans. At least, that’s what was found in this survey:

Weaver, D., R. Beam, B. Brownlee, P. S. Voakes, and G. C. Wilhoit. 2003. The American Journalist Survey. Indiana University School of Journalism.

P.S. Coincidentally, I found this the same day I bashed Niall Ferguson for garbling political science research. Or maybe it wasn’t a coincidence. I wasn’t going around searching for more examples of academics going too far in their political analyses, but it might be that writing the Ferguson blog got me attuned to the problem.

P.P.S. In a comment, John Sides refers to research that found that the news media were indeed amplifying negative stories about Gore. So, even though I still don’t see the evidence for Krugman’s claim that “Reporters liked Bush and didn’t like Gore,” it does appear that the news media had some effect on perceptions of Gore’s integrity.

P.P.P.S. Maybe the zillion commenters who disagree with me here have a point! I still find it a bit of a stretch for people to claim that reporters’ personal likes/dislikes would have more of an effect on coverage than reporters’ ideologies and partisanship, but I can see the reasoning, which I think roughly goes like this: journalists are trained to not let their partisanship get in the way of their reporting, but they don’t have that same constraint with respect to personal like/dislike. Thus a liberal Democratic reporter who personally liked Bush and disliked Gore might slant the news toward Bush and even feel good about such a slant in that it represents a bending-over-backwards to not simply follow the partisan cue.

As noted, I remain skeptical of this story—-I’d think that, when it comes to a national election, partisanship would trump personality—-but it is a coherent argument, supported by data. Which satisfies the request, posed at the top of this post: “I’d like to see Paul Krugman’s evidence for this.”

So . . . thanks, commenters!

74 Responses to Over-the-top claims about politics: one more time

  1. hs September 13, 2012 at 10:11 am #

    And Krugman used to bash people in other fields for making amateurish claims about economics and economic policymaking all the time. Oh, how things have changed now that he has joined the punditocracy…

    • JRoth September 13, 2012 at 2:54 pm #

      Boy, I bet that felt a lot zingier before a lot of people presented lots of evidence that this claim was anything but “amateurish” – so much so that Gelman has essentially ceded the field.

      • hs September 13, 2012 at 10:25 pm #

        Well, for what it’s worth, my reaction to Krugman’s claim was exactly the same as Andrew’s: that just can’t be right. I am feeling pretty astonished that we are apparently total outliers in our recollection of the 2000 campaign.

        • Jay B. September 14, 2012 at 2:03 pm #

          Yes, outliers and completely wrong. Just because you have a built-in bias = “Reporters are liberal” doesn’t actually make it so. Prove your point beyond an ancient study of reporter’s political affiliation.

          • Andrew Gelman September 14, 2012 at 5:26 pm #

            Jay:

            The study I cite is hardly “ancient.” We are discussing the 2000 election, and the study came out in 2003. That sounds pretty relevant to me!

        • mg September 14, 2012 at 3:42 pm #

          A bunch of priveleged millionaires and millionaires-on0-the-make, biased in favor of the party of millionaires and people they’ve been consorting with for decades, many of whom they might end up going to work for at exorbitant salaries in the not-too-distant future. You’re right, that just can’t be right. Makes no sense at all.

  2. John Sides September 13, 2012 at 10:14 am #

    Andy: In chapter 6 of Johnston, Hagen, and Jamieson’s book The 2000 Presidential Election and the Foundations of Party Politics, they talk about how GOP accusations/ads involving Gore’s dishonesty were amplified by the news media, and how the news media coverage appears to be the driver of declines in voters’ perceptions of Gore’s honesty. From p. 129: “So if the episode was initiated by ads, the transmission belt for impact was television news.”

    To be sure, Krugman’s claim is much cruder than this finding. But there is some truth to the notion that media coverage of Gore’s misstatements contributed to perceptions that he was less honest.

    • John Q September 14, 2012 at 9:25 pm #

      “..that media coverage of Gore’s misstatements..”

      I think you mean the media repetition of GOP distortions of what Gore actually said.

  3. reflectionephemeral September 13, 2012 at 11:20 am #

    Yeah, this is an old story:

    Eight years ago, in the bastions of the “liberal media” that were supposed to love Gore—The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, CNN—he was variously described as “repellent,” “delusional,” a vote-rigger, a man who “lies like a rug,” “Pinocchio.” Eric Pooley, who covered him for Time magazine, says, “He brought out the creative-writing student in so many reporters.… Everybody kind of let loose on the guy.” … Melinda Henneberger, then a political writer at the Times, says that such attitudes went all the way up to the top of the newspaper. “Some of it was a self-loathing liberal thing,” she says, “disdaining the candidate who would have fit right into the newsroom, and giving all sorts of extra time on tests to the conservative from Texas. Al Gore was a laughline at the paper, while where Bush was concerned we seemed to suffer from the soft bigotry of low expectations.” … As Time magazine’s Margaret Carlson admitted to Don Imus at the time, “You can actually disprove some of what Bush is saying if you really get into the weeds and get out your calculator, or look at his record in Texas. But it’s really easy, and it’s fun to disprove Al Gore. As sport, and as our enterprise, Gore coming up with another whopper is greatly entertaining to us.”… A study conducted by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center and the Project for Excellence in Journalism found that 76 percent of stories about Gore in early 2000 focused on either the theme of his alleged lying or that he was marred by scandal, while the most common theme about Bush was that he was “a different kind of Republican.”

    The media affects people’s perceptions by what they write, not by what we think the reporters are secretly thinking.

    • Andrew Gelman September 13, 2012 at 11:58 am #

      Reflection:

      I’m not talking about what reporters are secretly thinking, I’m talking about reporters’ actual survey responses.

      • reflectionephemeral September 13, 2012 at 12:08 pm #

        Thanks for reading and replying!

        Those are survey responses about what reporters are secretly thinking, not studies about what they write and report.

        • Andrew Gelman September 13, 2012 at 12:13 pm #

          Reflection:

          Fair enough, but Krugman’s claim was that “Reporters liked Bush and didn’t like Gore,” which is even more of a secret!

          • reflectionephemeral September 13, 2012 at 12:40 pm #

            Well, but it’s substantiated by reporting like the article I linked. Even if you think that reporters favored Bush over Gore because of bandwagoning, rather than because they liked him more, the larger point still stands.

          • reflectionephemeral September 13, 2012 at 8:13 pm #

            Thanks for engaging with commenters, and thanks for being willing to rethink your initial view.

            It seems to me that, in light of the treatment of Gore and the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, the “liberal media” hypothesis has been debunked.

            Now, maybe a softer version of the “liberal media” hypothesis might still work. Maybe there’s a “conservative media” on invading foreign countries, but a “liberal media” on social issues, or something. Or maybe not. But events of the past decade plus should have us refraining from leaning too much on that 2003 survey about what reporters secretly think.

            • Donald Johnson September 14, 2012 at 6:12 pm #

              “Maybe there’s a “conservative media” on invading foreign countries, but a “liberal media” on social issues, or something.”

              I think that’s partly right. Reporters nowadays tend to be jingoistic on foreign policy. On domestic policy they hate unions and old-fashioned liberal economic policy and are very concerned about the deficit and tend to adore “compromise” where “tough choices” are made, where “tough choices”means affluent people paying a bit more in taxes and poorer people having their benefits cut. To them that is shared sacrifice. Or anyway, that’s the impression I get from listening to some of them.

              But they’re liberal on sexual ethics. They’re pro-choice and pro-gay rights. Since those issues are very important to conservatives, the press is perceived as monolithically liberal.

          • Mitchell Freedman September 13, 2012 at 11:05 pm #

            Jesus, Andrew. At least read Bob Somerby. The main reporters for the NY Times and Washington Post that year hated Gore, did not hide their feelings to other reporters about it, and wrote some vile lies about Gore. And I say that as someone who did not support Gore at all in 2000. The TV guys were just as bad, starting with…Chris Matthews. Yes, Chris Matthews. The label of Democrat or Republican did not matter to these “Heathers.” They hated Gore and they were biased against him, and they like the knuckleheaded Bush. That was it.

          • Barry September 14, 2012 at 11:29 am #

            In a pedantic sense, yes, but Krugman was going by their behavior. If somebody laps up and repeats every lie about A, then it’s a safe bet that they don’t like A.

      • Barry September 14, 2012 at 11:28 am #

        “one thing we do know is that twice as many journalists are Democrats as Republicans. “

        And Krugman was talking about their *behavior*, not their survey responses.

        For a more recently relevant data point, see how many ‘liberal’ reporters are against any given strike.

  4. Aidan September 13, 2012 at 11:34 am #

    http://www.journalism.org/node/13307

    For some context, the split between negative and positive coverage for Al Gore in 2000 was virtually identical to that of John McCain in September and October. For McCain, this gap widened in correlation with the widening of the polls. This means that during the time period that saw the collapse of Lehman Brothers and McCain’s totally inept response, the campaign cancellation, Sarah Palin imploding on national television, a series of poor debate performances, and a projection of total disinterest and incompetence for a candidate whose major selling point was supposed to be his leadership and experience, the amount of negative press coverage was identical to the period of time in which Al Gore’s major transgression was rolling his eyes in a debate. Unlike with McCain, this sharp increase in negative coverage did not correspond with a cratering of Gore’s poll numbers; Bush and Gore were deadlocked in late August and deadlocked in early November. Obviously, the statement that “reports liked Bush and disliked Gore” with definitive data, but I think this is important to keep in mind. I find it difficult to believe that anyone would dispute that the media treated Bush with kid gloves and amplified any possible negative story about Gore, and I am baffled as to how you would come to the conclusion that this is on par with the hackery of Niall Ferguson.

    • matt w September 13, 2012 at 11:46 am #

      Rolling his eyes and sighing.

  5. gyrfalcon September 13, 2012 at 12:41 pm #

    Andrew, Bob Somerby over at http://dailyhowler.blogspot.com/has been documenting in excruciating detail what he calls the “war on Gore” since its beginning. You could browse his archives, or have a look at the as yet unfinished book he’s been putting together about it at http://www.howhegotthere.blogspot.com/

    Somerby is essentially the only person who investigated and pushed back on this stuff in real time as it was unrolling, but he was literally a voice crying in the wilderness. I understand from some things he’s written that he emailed and wrote and called reporters and media critics frequently at the time about this stuff, with zero result.

    • navarro September 13, 2012 at 1:12 pm #

      i was about to post the link to how he got there but i see gyrfalcon has already posted it.

      i have to wonder at mr. gelman’s incredulity at the krugman’s words. was he a child during the 2000 race? cloistered in a monastery outside of the united states? in a coma? if he was an adult and in the u.s. during the 2000 presidential race he should hide his head in shame for the willfull ignorance he’s putting on display here.

      • bob somerby September 13, 2012 at 4:41 pm #

        With thanks to gyrfalcon and navarro, let me add one basic point.

        I share navarro’s incredulity, but there is a reason why Gelman, and many others, have never heard of this twenty-month episode. As I have noted a million times, the liberal world has agreed to avoid discussion of this topic, presumably because so many major career liberals were part of this journalistic war. In fact, this war was the last campaign of the press corps’ earlier war against Bill Clinton, another effort the professors may not have heard of.

        The war against Gore was not an artifact of the right-wing noise machine. It was not an artifact of the Bush campaign. It was an artifact of the mainstream press corps. It was invented and driven along by many famous career “liberals.”

        “Liberals” played a bigger part in this war than conservatives did.

        To this day, careerists have agreed not to discuss the war against Gore, or the press corps’ earlier behavior toward Clinton. As a result, political science professors in New York City remain innocent of our most fundamental recent political history. If the professors haven’t heard, how many regular voters have any idea about this part of our recent history?

        The innocence of this initial post is a remarkable testimonial to the power of willful group silence. That silence has come from the mainstream press and the career liberal world. The silence continues today.

        • Donald Johnson September 14, 2012 at 6:19 pm #

          I had to read Somerby to begin to grasp how badly the press covered the 2000 campaign. I honestly believed some of the lies told about Gore.(There are other things about him, like his support for the sanctions on Iraq, which I think were reprehensible, but that had nothing to do with the slander campaign. )

          What was clear to me at the time was that Bush was being given a free ride. But I didn’t realize that some of what I thought I knew about Gore was made up.

          • Jim September 14, 2012 at 7:26 pm #

            I agree. More broadly, while Bob Somerby’s thesis seems to come out of right field the enormous weight of evidence he collected is very convincing. And I personally enjoy his style of argument: I find him to be one of the strongest adepts of inductive forensics this side of Darwin. The old Howler archives are a must-read.

  6. John Bullock September 13, 2012 at 12:50 pm #

    http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/features/2000/0004.parry.html

    Case study of the media’s handling, during the 2000 campaign, of Gore’s claims about Love Canal. It doesn’t speak to Krugman’s claims about Bush, but it does speak to the claim that the media were “gleefully passing on every smear against his opponent.”

    In fact, the situation was worse than Krugman suggests. In some cases, the media created the smears. The Times and the Post in particular have a lot to answer for.

    • urban legend September 13, 2012 at 5:42 pm #

      But they never will answer for it because they (1) don’t give a crap whether they do real journalism or not when the alternative is to be embarrassed, and (2) will suppress any discussion of it. For that matter, will the CJR go after one of their own? I wouldn’t count on it.

  7. Napoleon September 13, 2012 at 12:51 pm #

    How could anyone not conclude that the media treated Bush with kid gloves and bashed Gore. This isn’t even open to serious discussion it was so obvious.

    • urban legend September 13, 2012 at 5:44 pm #

      It’s called putting the “ivory” in “tower.”

      All you can say is, “Wow!!!!”

  8. Eric September 13, 2012 at 12:57 pm #

    Having also lived through it (and also without TV), I’m with Krugman on this one.

    • Phil P. September 13, 2012 at 1:27 pm #

      I’ll 3rd (or 4th, or whatever) that sentiment: I also lived through it — though with TV — and it was common knowledge at the time how much the campaign press corps disliked Gore and were charmed by Bush. Some even joked about it on air or in print, which dumbfounded me at the time, but is something I wouldn’t find the least bit surprising today.

      As to whether or not their like/dislike was the cause of the shellacking that Gore took from the news media, I image that would be hard to say for sure. But it’s certainly suggestive.

      I also have to say I’m a little surprised that somebody as sophisticated as Andrew Gelman would point out that “one thing we do know is that twice as many journalists are Democrats as Republicans” as being relevant to the point that Krugman was trying to make. Personal attachment or attraction do not equal political affiliation.

      • Napoleon September 13, 2012 at 1:31 pm #

        And even if that is true about reporters in general was it true about the people covering Gore?

      • Andrew Condon September 13, 2012 at 3:57 pm #

        I think there’s also a strong possibility – given certain tenets of faith of esp. US journalists about their supposed neutrality – that journalists felt more comfortable bashing their “own” candidate.

        In fairness, i suppose a lot of those journalists did not realize how much was on the line in that election.

        • gyrfalcon September 13, 2012 at 4:47 pm #

          Why? Why didn’t they know how much was on the line? How come the rest of us knew and they didn’t?

          • Barry September 14, 2012 at 11:33 am #

            “Why? Why didn’t they know how much was on the line? How come the rest of us knew and they didn’t?”

            Because these policies are not decided by peons, or even peon reporters. They’re decided by publishers who are likely to be billionaires. the ‘peon’ level here would be national columnists and pundits making hundreds of thousands per year, who benefit from GOP policies.

        • Barry September 14, 2012 at 11:31 am #

          Which is another data point in favor of the ‘hate Gore’ theory – if you think back to 1988, Gore should have had a smooth ride to reelection. The economy was beyond golden, the international scene was sweet indeed, and Gore was in a sweet spot (continuing Clinton with a more upright reputation).

          • John Q September 14, 2012 at 9:37 pm #

            I recall reading at the time that when the Republicans held focus groups, they were horrified to find that the Democratic Party agenda was way more popular than their own. Realizing that they could not hope to win on policy, they made a strategic decision to attack Gore’s character. And as Gore was a pretty upright guy, it meant inventing a straw man to attack.

            It is to the shame of the press that they went along with this mendacious campaign.

  9. JustMe September 13, 2012 at 1:24 pm #

    John Sides refers to research that found that the news media were indeed amplifying negative stories about Gore. So, even though I still don’t see the evidence for Krugman’s claim that “Reporters liked Bush and didn’t like Gore,” it does appear that the news media had some effect on perceptions of Gore’s integrity.

    You’ve seen comments from journalists saying they don’t like Gore. And you’ve seen studies showing that stories were heavily tilted against Gore. So what more do you want?

    • John Q September 14, 2012 at 9:38 pm #

      “So what more do you want?”

      Absolution for being so willfully ignorant in 2000, I guess.

  10. idiot September 13, 2012 at 2:49 pm #

    “Maybe the zillion commenters who disagree with me here have a point! “

    By conceding to your opponents and admitting you may be wrong, you have demonstrated that you are indeed more competent than most bloggers out there. Or more weak-willed. Either-or.

    • Andrew Gelman September 13, 2012 at 3:31 pm #

      When the commenters are 2 to 1 against me, they could just be confused about a subtle point. When it’s a zillion to 1, a bit of Bayesian analysis suggests that I’m the one who’s missing something.

      • gyrfalcon September 13, 2012 at 4:49 pm #

        Andrew, here’s what I’m guessing it boils down to: You didn’t know (and how could you?) that all that stuff about “earth tones” and Naomi Wolf and Love Canal and the union lullaby, on and on and on, were falsehoods. Am I right? You assumed you were being given an accurate portrait of Vile Gore?

      • Barry September 30, 2012 at 4:13 pm #

        Andrew, or you’re being swarmed. However, the comenters are listing evidence and studies.

  11. Aidan September 13, 2012 at 4:39 pm #

    Paul Waldman makes a good point (from http://prospect.org/article/do-reporters-dislike-mitt-romney):

    “It’s not ideological; instead, it exists where the personal and professional meet. They didn’t like Al Gore or John Kerry, and John McCain has gotten more press worship over his career than any politician in modern American history. George W. Bush was extremely popular with the press corps, particularly in 2000, because he was a fun guy to hang out with who made an effort to hang out with them, and also because he successfully cultivated the idea that he was personally honorable and genuine.”

    Bush was well known for bantering with reporters and giving them nicknames. Reporters generally like being bantered with and having attention payed to them.

    Also, I have no way to prove this, but it was my feeling that there was something that seemed cool or contrarian about supporting Bush over Gore in 2000. To the media who had just spent eight years covering him in the White House, Gore was the stuffy establishment figure and Bush was the fun, folksy Texan outsider who flattered the press into being able to think that they were neither partisan liberals nor boring elitists.

    • gyrfalcon September 13, 2012 at 4:51 pm #

      That’s a really good explanation for the reporters’ fondness for George W., shallow jerks that most of them are. It doesn’t, though, explain the unrelenting viciousness of the smears they invented against Gore, which went way beyond simply liking George W. better.

      • Aidan September 14, 2012 at 8:18 am #

        An old post at Daily Howler quotes Margaret Carlson saying “Gore elicited in us the childish urge to poke a stick in the eye of the smarty-pants.” I don’t think it’s much more complicated than that, unfortunately: http://www.dailyhowler.com/dh061403.shtml

        • mattski September 14, 2012 at 12:22 pm #

          That and the fact that by the nature of left and right the penalty for malicious swipes at Democrats is much less daunting than for reasoned criticism of Republicans. Also, herd behavior.

      • John Q September 14, 2012 at 9:45 pm #

        My own theory for the press’s dislike of Gore:

        Political reporters are pretty ignorant about almost everything, as we can see from the inane questions that they pose candidates. Gore, I suspect, did not hide his disdain for the ignorami, so they came to dislike him.

        I recall reading an account of reporters in the press room during the 2000 presidential debates openly snickering and jeering when Gore was making cogent and accurate points that in a rational world would have meant he was winning the debate.

  12. Total September 13, 2012 at 6:48 pm #

    I’d think that, when it comes to a national election, partisanship would trump personality

    That’s a comforting thought. Do you have any evidence for it? Since we’re looking for evidence for things…

    • Andrew Gelman September 13, 2012 at 7:21 pm #

      Total:

      Yes, there’s lots of evidence that partisanship explains most of voting. See, for example, my 1993 paper with King, also there’s lots of discussion of this point in Rosenstone’s classic book, Forecasting Presidential Elections.

      • Total September 13, 2012 at 9:30 pm #

        Voting, sure, but your assertion is about partisanship trumping personality in the reporting of a campaign. Maureen Dowd was reported to have said that she voted for Gore, even after trashing him.

  13. Welles September 13, 2012 at 7:06 pm #

    “as a non-T.V. owner, I think it’s safe to say that I did not actually live through the 2000 election campaign”

    In fact, the worst culprits of bias against Gore were Katherine Seelye of the New York Times, Ceci Connolly of the Washington Post, and Nedra Pickler of the Associated Press.

    But yeah, if you didn’t realize that reporters were smearing Gore, it’s safe to say that you did not actually live through the 2000 campaign.

    That said, thanks for the updates.

  14. Barry September 14, 2012 at 11:34 am #

    Kevin Drum has some more links at:

    http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2012/09/blast-past-media-vs-al-gore

  15. Jim Harrison September 14, 2012 at 11:48 am #

    I’m surprised that somebody supposedly expert in political science doesn’t understand that mainstream journalists may be liberal on cultural issues and self identify as Democrats, but be distinctly conservative on economic issues. You have to go a long way to find a TV commentator who isn’t hostile to unions and school teachers—the assumption that our economic problems require a serious “reform” of entitlements is pretty much universal. Bush’s policies appealed to them and not merely on an ideological level. The Bush victory put thousands their bank accounts by cutting taxes on people with high incomes. Disliking Gore for largely imaginary personal failings was very convenient excuse.

    • John Q September 14, 2012 at 9:49 pm #

      If you read Eric Alterman’s book What Liberal Media, you’ll see that the press is generally conservative in outlook, except on matters of race.

  16. Gravymeister September 14, 2012 at 1:05 pm #

    I might as well chime in.
    I will grant the professor that more reporters than not tend to be liberal, but we mustn’t forget that the people that far fewer liberals own and control the media.
    It is the ideology of the owners that gets the ink and the air time.

    • Gravymeister September 14, 2012 at 1:06 pm #

      Dele “that the people”

  17. phil parker September 14, 2012 at 1:58 pm #

    Maybe you resided on Neptune during that period but surely you’ve heard of the NY Times? Go ahead and read what that bastion of the left had to say about Gore Start with Maureen Dowd (just a suggestion) Perhaps they all even voted for Gore- but they had so much fun We who already know this sad story think the press have the blood of thousands of Iraqis & Americans on their hands When you’re done with the Times feel free to pick up any LIBERAL magazine of the day Fox News was probably more even handed

  18. almondleaf September 14, 2012 at 2:03 pm #

    Wow- And you actually get paid by an accredited University to be a “professor of political science”? That is frightening.

    • Andrew Gelman September 14, 2012 at 6:03 pm #

      Almondleaf:

      I had not been aware of all the information mentioned in this thread. I agree that it would have been better had I already been aware, but none of us is perfect. Sadly, even a professor of political science can be incompletely informed. Ultimately we must be judged not just by the gaps in our knowledge but also on our contributions. That is one reason that in my post on Niall Ferguson, I emphasized that I am a fan of some of his works. Whatever mistakes he is making now do not invalidate his contributions.

      • almondleaf September 15, 2012 at 1:43 pm #

        I appreciate your responding but as probably mentioned above here, you’d of had to have had your head in the sand for the last 13 years regarding the outsized influence media “mythinformation” has had on our politics. To my mind, your students were and are yet at a disadvantage. Perhaps that is ending. I too suggest that you read Bob Somerby’s writings for the ultimate primer on this subject. Best Wishes.

  19. Bill Harmon September 14, 2012 at 3:51 pm #

    Prof. Gelman, your response to Total (7:21 pm yesterday) surprises me. You seem confused about the difference between voting and reporting.

    Unless I missed it, no one in this thread directly mentioned self-censorship by reporters, but several commenters have alluded to it. (By the way, one study showed that media outlets often fit coverage to the audience’s ideological preference.) Add in the personal dislike reporters felt for Gore (which has been spoken of openly by a number of reporters) and the tendency of reporters to follow the herd (read: “repeat lies”) and the remarkable bias in coverage against Gore becomes easier to understand.

    Bob Somerby at the Daily Howler has documented–often quoting relevant passages from newspaper coverage of the 2000 campaign– many examples of media bias against Gore in 1999 and 2000. (Many of these examples come from the New York Times.) It was a real eye-opener for me. Check these out, and also the Columbia Journalism Review article on media bias in the 2000 campaign, if you’re still questioning what so many of the commenters in this thread have said.

  20. jamie_2002 September 14, 2012 at 3:53 pm #

    The evidence of bias against Gore is strong. Is your continued skepticism based on disputing the causal linkage (dislike –> biased coverage) even though we have self-reported dislike from those who produced biased coverage?

    • Bill Harmon September 14, 2012 at 7:30 pm #

      I’m wondering the same thing.

      This whole episode says something about the academic world. I’m glad I got out.

      • Bill Harmon September 14, 2012 at 7:33 pm #

        This shouldn’t be read as a dig against Prof. Gelman–he’s been a good sport here.

  21. R September 14, 2012 at 5:35 pm #

    Reporters have no more say about what news is produced than a factory worker does in relation to what a factory produces. The owners of the media corporations decide what is presented in the media, the editors are their administrators. Don’t do what the editors want, get fired. In what way would it be different? Do owners of corporations tend to be liberal, vote Democratic, or support Democratic candidates who might conceivably raise their taxes, or do they tend to be Republicans, and support Republican candidates? And owning a media corporation, they will allow their corporation to produce a liberal media product?

    Gelman, you don’t incorporate how people live and function in the real world. It doesn’t matter what reporters believe or think or vote, they don’t control what they do. They are employees. They do what the boss wants. The boss does what the owners want. In what special way would it be different, that would support your views?

    • Andrew Gelman September 14, 2012 at 6:15 pm #

      R,

      1. The New York Times and the Washington Post endorsed Al Gore in 2000. This is not to say that their coverage was uniformly pro-Gore, or even pro-Gore in net (the above commenters give examples of Times reporters that they felt were anti-Gore), but, given these endorsements, it seems silly to present either of these newspapers as Republican institutions.

      2. The real world is a big place. Reporters often have autonomy, a fact that is indeed reflected by various people disagreeing with me in the above thread. If various journalists personally liked Bush and disliked Gore, and if these personal feelings affected their reporting, then indeed that is a reflection of the journalists’ (partial) autonomy in their reporting. As noted in my P.P.P.S. above, I can see the reasoning by which a reporter will let his or her personal feelings to override partisanship. So I can see how Krugman’s original claim could be correct. But no need to buy into a deterministic view that bigtime campaign reporters have no say about what news is produced.

      • R September 14, 2012 at 8:00 pm #

        Sounds reasonable, except that few short written things easily break down complexities very well. In that regard, your claim that I have a deterministic view, appears deterministic. You have not employed any depth of social thinking to what I wrote, else you would have properly talked past what I exactly wrote, to get where I actually was in order to examine what I was saying. Its implications. It appears reporters have leeway, provided the results are essentially ineffective at achieving some meaningful societal change, or achieve a desired owner goal. When something effective is about to be reported, the clamps come down. There’s an old quote, “Change it the way I say, and thousands will read it in the morning. Otherwise, you can pass it around to your friends tonight.” I suppose you don’t know what that means, huh.

        Somerby is defining about a much worse situation, where media personnel are so much in alignment with desire for fame and wealth there’s nothing they won’t do, or fail to do. They are wild, societal parasites. to which there must be an answer. I’m simply talking about what used to be normal, which was bad enough. So you’re several steps behind the curve, Gelman, and you oughta shape up quick. You have a remarkable emotional opportunity to straighten yourself out, and develop an attack like a cigarette convert. Don’t waste it.

        • mattski September 15, 2012 at 10:43 am #

          R,

          I think Andrew Gelman has acquitted himself pretty well here. Your remarks have some merit, by I think you lose in the nuance, open-mindedness and manners departments to Mr. Gelman.

  22. John Q September 14, 2012 at 9:55 pm #

    One thing to note is that reporters are so intimidated by the “liberal media” accusation that they bend over backwards to appear balanced – so far backwards that they become completely unbalanced.

    For instance, you won’t find in the mainstream press a full accounting of Mr. Romney’s dishonesty as documented weekly by Steve Benen in his blog.

    http://maddowblog.msnbc.com/_news/2012/09/14/13865583-chronicling-mitts-mendacity-vol-xxxiv?lite

    • idiot September 15, 2012 at 4:53 pm #

      If it is being hosted on “MSNBC”, it is being hosted by the the mainstream press. MSNBC is, after all, a mainstream press.

  23. ltr September 15, 2012 at 11:24 am #

    Andrew Gelman, you are absurdly wrong.

  24. Gabriel Mares September 17, 2012 at 2:06 am #

    One of the issues that winds up causing this sort of divide is the entire question of how much the news media actually matters in American elections. If your statistical model is geared more towards unemployment, CPI, etc, it’s very easy to just not look into things like “how does the media cover this candidate?” “Horse race” analysis is often considered (with a few exceptions like Popkin) to be a non-academic way of analyzing elections, and if you start with that assumption, it’s very easy to dismiss day-to-day media coverage as just another aspect of horse race analysis. Part of this may also be due to the difficulty of measuring certain aspects – the readership of a Maureen Dowd column is already a self-selecting group, are the votes of this group of people likely to change if she relishes trashes one candidate or another? If we assume her readership is mostly liberal, then maybe in the primaries that makes a difference. But how do we measure how influential she is on other columnists and reporters? How does circulation affect the impact of an author? Are these negative stories following polling trends or creating them? How reliable are the weekly polls anyways, versus just all within the margin of error? Etc etc.
    In some ways, this just rehashes the methodology debates in political science – qualitative analysts would argue that the quant people don’t have a good way of measuring this stuff, and so just assume it away. Quant people would argue that they are filtering out a lot of irrelevant information. And both quant and qual researchers likely don’t engage with too much mass media since the academic demands on their time are so great. Maybe this is changing in an era when everyone is on some listhost that emails notices about the media/political outrage of the day, but I suspect a lot of profs and grad students just delete those emails.