In late 1982 and early 1983, Indiana University journalism professors David H. Weaver and G. Cleveland Wilhoit surveyed more than 1,000 journalists, and reported the results in their 1986 book, The American Journalist. Their poll included more than just top reporters, and, overall, they detected only a modest skew towards the liberal side of the spectrum — 22 percent of those interviewed called themselves liberal, compared with 19 percent who said they were conservative. But among 136 executives and staffers at 'prominent news organizations' — the three weekly newsmagazines, the AP and UPI wire services and the Boston Globe — the liberal tilt was much more pronounced, with liberals outnumbering conservatives by a more than two-to-one margin (32 to 12 percent). Only six percent of this group identified themselves as Republican, compared with seven times as many (43 percent) who said they were Democrats.
Journalists were instructed: 'The media are often classified politically in terms of left, right and center. On a scale from zero (meaning extreme left) to one hundred (meaning extreme right)....where on this scale would you place yourself?'
Most of the journalists surveyed (57.5%) chose numbers that placed themselves in the middle of the spectrum, with 22.1 percent ranking themselves as more liberal, and 17.9 percent saying they were more conservative, and 2.5 percent not responding.
'When the political leanings of U.S. journalists are analyzed separately for executive (those who supervise editorial employees) and staffers of prominent and nonprominent news organizations, we find more journalists (both executives and staffers) from prominent organizations claiming to be left-of-center.'
Among the prominent, or elite, media, 32.3 percent rated themselves as more liberal, compared to 11.8 percent who said they were more conservative. Eight percent rated themselves as solidly 'left,' but none of the media elite would place themselves squarely on the 'right.'
Nearly four in ten of all journalists surveyed (38.5%) described themselves as Democrats, compared to just 18.8 percent who said they were Republicans. Among the journalists working at prominent news organizations, just 6 percent would admit to being Republicans, compared to 43 percent who said they were Democrats.