Sunday, August 01, 2004

The New York Times > Campaign 2004 > Political Points: Finding Biases on the Bus

The New York Times > Washington > Campaign 2004 > Political Points: Finding Biases on the Bus:
"As John Kerry celebrates his nomination with a coast-to-coast bus trip (this may be the first time the word 'celebrates' has appeared so close to 'coast-to-coast bus trip') conservatives are complaining about his good press. They say that journalists' liberal bias has colored the reviews of the Democratic convention and his speech.

But do journalists really want John Kerry to defeat George W. Bush? It depends where they work and how you ask the question, at least according to the unscientific survey we conducted last weekend during a press party at the convention. We got anonymous answers from 153 journalists, about a third of them based in Washington."

When asked who would be a better president, the journalists from outside the Beltway picked Mr. Kerry 3 to 1, and the ones from Washington favored him 12 to 1. Those results jibe with previous surveys over the past two decades showing that journalists tend to be Democrats, especially the ones based in Washington. Some surveys have found that more than 80 percent of the Beltway press corps votes Democratic.

But political ideology isn't the only possible bias. Journalists also have a professional bias: they need good stories to make the front page and get on the air.

So we asked our respondents which administration they'd prefer to cover the next four years strictly from a journalistic standpoint. We expected the Washington journalists to strongly prefer Mr. Kerry, partly because they complain so much about the difficulty of getting leaks from the Bush White House, but mainly because any change in administration means lots of news.

Sure enough, the Washington respondents said they would rather cover Mr. Kerry, but by a fairly small amount, 27 to 21, and the other journalists picked Bush, 56 to 40. (A few others had no opinion.) The overall result was 77 for Bush, 67 for Mr. Kerry.

Why stick with the Bush administration? "You can't ask for a richer cast of characters to cover," one Washington correspondent said. "Kerry will be a bore after these guys."
con·cept: The New York Times > Campaign 2004 > Political Points: Finding Biases on the Bus