A new study in the Journal of Media Economics shows the media is biased against right-leaning think tanks.
Wayne Dunham, an economist in the Anti-Trust Division of the Department of Justice, concluded that the media “had a much higher propensity to associate ideological frames with think tanks associated with the right or conservative side of the political spectrum.”
For example, an article may cite a study from the “conservative Heritage Foundation” while citing another study from the “Urban Institute” with no ideological qualifier.
The study measured 25,000 references to think tanks by six major newspapers and the Associated Press over an 18-year period. Dunham used 12 think tanks in his measurement, including the Heritage Foundation and American Enterprise Institute on the right, and the Brookings Institution, RAND Corporation and the Urban Institute on the left.
“This data show that conservative think tanks are ideologically framed 10 times more frequently than liberal think tanks,” said Dunham. There are several factors that “suggest a liberal media bias.”
Attaching an ideological label to a think tank is a subtle way of making its conclusion seem less credible. By doing this selectively, journalists have a powerful influence on the public perception of conservative think tanks.