Are journalists more liberal because they're also more informed?

I’ve seen studies stating that something like 90 percent of journalists lean to the left when it comes to their personal political views. I’m wondering if this has to do with the fact that they have a close-up view of the political process and get to see a lot of what goes on behind the scenes, as well as the direct impact certain policies have. I seriously doubt anyone is sitting a newsrooms devising ways to shaft the GOP, while putting the Democrats on a pedestal.
Also I wonder if their personal views are also a result of conservatives bashing them all the time. I can see them not wanting to associate with a group of people that is shitting on their profession, while reveling in its financial troubles, thus creating a self-perpetuating cycle of mistrust.

I’m not at all sure that they have any superior knowledge of both of these things. A congressional correspondant may know all about the backroom deals to get the farm-aid-bill passed; I don’t know that that makes him any more informed about the actual, real-world effects of that bill on farmers in Iowa, especially since most legislation has unintended consequences.

More to the point, your theory might make sense if people became liberal after becoming journalists; but most of them start out that way. No cite atm, but I’ve seen surveys that show similar 10-1 type ratios among journalism students. Certainly journalism school faculty are pretty monolithic.
I don’t think anyone but the nuts imagine the kind of newsroom cabal you describe. When most people talk about media bias, they usually mean things like groupthink, unquestioned assumptions, confirmation bias, and unconscious-type things.

I doubt it. That assumes a model of ideology that is responsive to information about current events. A more realistic model of ideology is to see it as a set of underlying assumptions about the world that shape how one processes information, rather than the other way around. Ideology can change over time, but not in the way you suggest, I don’t think.

My guess is that like any other self-selecting group, there are certain characteristics of journalists that are more attractive to liberals than conservatives. These include: working in big urban cities, not making a lot of money while doing something that arguably produces a social good, a job with a bottom line that isn’t about profit for shareholders, and often a master’s degree education with a humanities background. Plus, the heroes of journalism are liberals who challenged McCarthy, brought down Nixon, revealed facts about the Vietnam War, etc.

But there, in a somewhat different but perhaps comparable vein, a corrolation between lots of education and liberal political sentiments (sorry I do not have a cite on this but I I’ve seen stats of this sort though,of course, it doesn’t mean that 100% of people with, say, a masters degree will be liberals).
And I think that journalists are overall a pretty well-educated lot and, as good writers, they are often educated in specifically humanistic subjects like history, anthropology, political philosophy, and literature.

There’s also the old saw: conservatives go into careers that will make them money, liberals go into careers that will change the world.

Having been in and around journalism all my life, I agree with the others who say that liberals make journalism, not that journalism makes liberals. I have known a lot of conservative journalists, but they tend to be clustered in business and trade media, not “mainstream” media.

I’ve seen studies like that too but here is a (11 year old) study that suggests journalists tend to be to the right of the public on many issues. Like many well educated professionals they tended to be liberal on social issues and conservative on economic issues. This study was confined to journalists in Washington D.C.

Warning, link to FAIR:

Warning, PDF:

I privately suspect it’s because a significant percentage of young(ish) journalists are female (especially in the “new media” areas), and there’s more of an element of “empathy” and “socialisation” there than an older (and more likely cynical) male reporter.

That’s not to say “All women journalists are touchy-feely vapid social butterflies!” or “All male journalists are grizzled cynics!” because that’s clearly not true. But most Journalism students (at least here) are women, which means most future journalists will be women, and women (like men) have their own way of approaching a story, and there’s certainly a feeling here that many female journalists prefer a “lighter” or “softer” approach than a male journalist might.

The correlation has always been a bell curve. As education increases, you get a higher percentage of conservatives/Republicans, until that peaks with a bachelors degree. For education levels past a bachelors degree, the number of liberals/Democrats start going up.

Thanks, Captain A. Do you mean higher relative to the less educated (as in more conservatives with BA/BSs than without them) or do you mean higher absolutely (as in the majority of BA/BSs are conservatives).

Even if the latter is true (which I sort of doubt) I’d still guess that of the kinds of majors that future journalists gravitate to tend to produce liberal political sympathies just because of the nature of what you learn in them (critical thinking!). Not something I can really quantify as a hard correlation–just an instinct I have.

And of course there are exceptions like the very smart, often quite interesting, but fundamentally dubious David Brooks!

I mean that (and I’m making these numbers up for illustration), lets say you take a random sample of people and ask them if they’re conservative or liberal, and you sort them by education. You’ll see something like, 20% of people with less than a high school education will say they’re conservative, 30% of people with a high school diploma, 40% of people with some college, 50% of people with a bachelors degree, 40% of people with a masters, 30% of doctoral students, and 20% of people with PhDs.

Like I said, I made those numbers up to illustrate what I was trying to say. I don’t have the actual numbers, and I learned this 15 years ago, but that’s the pattern. If you take a random sample, the more education they have, the more likely they are to be conservative until you get to the bachelors degree, and then the more education, the less likely.

Right, so to clarify you are saying it’s #1 (relatively higher) not #2 (absolutely higher)–that is, you are NOT saying that more BAs/BSs are Republicans than Democrats. (Actually in your example you said 50/50 but I know you’re making that up that specific number illustrate the bell curve.

I just want to point out (for the OP) that if my hunch is right and there are still more democrats with bachelors degrees than republicans, so that, say, at the top of the curve 48 percent are republicans, you could still have a situation in which more journalists (a profession that typically requires at least a bachelors degree) are democrats. And then when you factor in the likely tendency for journalists to major in topics that tend to go hand in hand with liberal sentiments, that could contribute to significantly more democrats. And then when you factor in that many journalists have masters degrees…

And so on.


Journalists are liberal because they tended to be the sensitive kids who kept a journal back in highschool.

Lazy kids these days, don’t bother to look up the numbers …

No party has an absolute majority at any level of education. But the bell curve is as CA described.

Anyone who has any kind of education and intelligence will certainly tend to reject some conservative ideas such as creationism or the belief that cutting taxes raises revenue. If they travel extensively they will see that the US is well to the right of other industrialized countries and that US taxes are relatively low compared with those countries. They’ll have also seen UHC in action. A nuanced world view is less compatible with conservative ideology.

Living in large cites means that you deal with gay people all the time, may have some as friends, and may be out yourself. On the other hand, you will probably be less tolerant of people that speak in tongues or handle snakes because you don’t meet them.

And remember, fact have a well known liberal bias so the more you are exposed to them the more you’ll lean to the left.

Oh bollocks. I lived overseas for three years and got surgery in a subsidized healthcare country. I came out more conservative then I went in. Lowering taxes has been empirically shown to raise revenue in certain conditions (and lower it under others).

As to the rest, you might as well say that urban residents vote democratic 'cause they’re scared of violent black people, or people with advanced degrees are liberal because they’re losers that stay in school instead of going out and getting a job (whereas the HS dropouts are the lazy people that all want to mooch off the hard work of others by living on the dole). Drugs damage your brain, so that’s why drug users lean democratic. And of course, convicted felons lean democratic, too, so that proves … something.


If all you have to sell is bigotry and pigheaded stereotypes, stay in the pit.

Somewhat of a nitpick, but Vietnam started under Truman and became a full out war under JFK and LBJ, all of whom were liberals.

I’m well aware of that. Nevertheless, the pentagon papers are heralded by the Left and decried by the Right (generally speaking).

Well the problem with saying those things is that there isn’t much evidence for them, anecdotal or otherwise. Since the majority of urban residents in many large cities is now now non-white it seems unlikely they vote democratic cause they’re scared of themselves. And people with advanced degrees tend to earn more than those without them, suggesting that they are neither losers nor unproductive people.

DanBlather’s post was not especially diplomatic or courteous; but his comment–that people living in large cities are more likely to be tolerant of gays and less likely to be tolerant of religious fundamentalists–seems fairly sound…as generalizations go.

There’s apparently a reason behind your username. :wink: