Republican voters and media bias

Here is another interesting international comparison chart, from “Mainly Macro”, which seems to be morphing into “Mainly Political”. Oxford economist Simon Wren-Lewis sees that Obama is far more popular in Europe than in the United States, and concludes that it must be due to media bias. 

From a European perspective, the US election should be no contest, as these results from an opinion survey by Pew indicate.

Now if you are a Republican, this may just confirm your view that Europeans are forced to live in just the kind of socialist state that Obama wants to turn the US into, and that we have been brainwashed into not knowing any better. However I think it has rather more to do with things like:

1) Many Republican Party supporters campaign to have intelligent design taught on an equal footing to Darwinian evolution in schools.

2) Climate change denial appears to govern Party policy on what may well be the greatest threat mankind currently faces.

3) Party leaders appear to at best tolerate, if not promulgate, the idea that tax cuts (particularly for the rich) will increase tax revenue, despite all the evidence to the contrary.

4) Veracity seems to be in short supply in Party speeches and propaganda in the current election.


There appears to be another puzzle, and that is that many Republican voters seem to be voting against their own economic interest. Residents of red states tend to receive more government transfers than blue states. More generally, how can the poor possibly vote for a party which is so devoted to tax cuts for the (very) rich and reducing aid to the poor? ….

In the UK the state played a central role in the development of radio and television, through the BBC. It appears as if most European countries followed a similar model. Now this can have severe disadvantages if the state decides to take too much control, but in many European countries there are various safeguards designed to minimise the influence of the particular party in power over what is broadcast. I want to suggest that this set up has some important implications. State controlled media will tend to be centrist in its outlook, and dismissive of extremes. It will also try and reflect establishment views and opinions, which include academic scientific opinion and mainstream religious views. Partly as a result, a political party which appeared to tolerate the views listed above would be given a hard time. I’m also pretty sure that party leaders would not be able to get away with being as ‘economical with the truth’ as Ryan’s convention speech was. ….

[T]he drift to the right of the Republican Party may be a function of the [private] ownership structure of the media in the US. If true, … has this process in the US been there since the invention of radio and TV, or is it more recent, and if so why?”

Simon Wren-Lewis, “Republican voters and the BBC“, Mainly Macro, 7 September 2012.

The rightward drift of US media actually began not long ago. A commentator explains that it dates from repeal of the Fairness Doctrine in 1987 during the presidency of Ronald Reagan.

Mark A. Sadowski: The Fairness Doctrine was a policy of the United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC), introduced in 1949, that required the holders of broadcast licenses to both present controversial issues of public importance and to do so in a manner that was, in the Commission’s view, honest, equitable and balanced. The FCC decided to eliminate the Doctrine in 1987.

The end of the Fairness Doctrine led to the rise of right-wing talk radio, Fox News and effectively led to the end of investigative news journalism and high quality news coverage in the United States.

Simon Wren-Lewis: Mark – thanks for this, … because without this information I was concerned that my hypothesis could not explain why the rightward drift started under Reagan. It is also interesting that Congress tried to reinstate the doctrine, but that this was vetoed by Reagan.

comments“, Mainly Macro, 8 September 2012.

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