Founded in 2014, Vox is a newer digital media outlet that provides a wide range of coverage on politics, policy, technology, culture, and more. Its explanatory journalism aims to make current events easy to understand and delves deep into complex issues, offering helpful, simple analysis and commentary and making information more accessible. Their staff is comprised of more than 100 subject matter experts and journalists who all share a common goal of empowering readers with accurate information.
However, Vox is known to have a reputation for left-leaning bias, expressing progressive viewpoints on matters like healthcare, social justice, and climate change. According to Pew Research, the ideological profile of Vox’s audience is 52% liberal and only 9% conservative. This may be because, most often, the organization tends to promote ideas, perspectives, and policies that align most closely with the political left. This has caused many to question the media company’s journalistic integrity and ability to present neutral, trustworthy information.
Source: Pew Research Center
Despite this perceived bias, however, readers may still be able to find informative content on Vox’s website but should strive to consume their news from a variety of sources from differing perspectives to ensure they understand all sides of an issue.
This article will dive into Vox editorials in order to gain clarity on whether or not the company is truly biased.
How Does Biasly Rate News Sources?
Biasly’s algorithms produce bias ratings to help provide multiple perspectives on given articles. Biasly has analyzed 200,000+ news articles from more than 3,200 news sources through our A.I. technology and team of political analysts to find the most factual, unbiased news stories.
Biasly determines the degree of political bias in news sources by using Biasly’s Bias Meter Rating, in which Biasly’s team analyzes media sources’ reliability and bias and produces three scores, a Reliability Score that measures the accuracy of media sources; an A.I. Bias Score, evaluated by A.I.; and an Analyst Bias Score evaluated by political analysts. These scores are rated based on seven rating metrics including Tone, Tendency, Diction, Author Check, Selection/Omission, Expediency Bias, and Accuracy. These metrics help our analysts to determine the political attitude of the article.
Our A.I. machine-learning system employs natural language processing and entity-specific sentiment analysis to examine individual articles and determine their bias levels. By analyzing the key terms in an article such as policies, bias phrases, political terminologies, politicians, and their nicknames, the algorithms can rate the attitude of the text. Bias scores range from -100% and 100%, with higher negative scores being more liberal and higher positive scores being more conservative, and 0% being neutral.
Before we begin, we need to discuss bias. Bias is a natural function of humans, and we can express it both consciously and unconsciously. Bias is one of the most fundamental forms of pattern recognition in humans. This isn’t to lower the bar and say that “all things are biased,” but to explain the process in which we may come to trust certain news organizations that display patterns of coverage.
On the media’s part, there is an incentive to retain audiences, encourage them to purchase subscriptions, and rate products positively. Bias is a two-way street, people want to see news stories about things they care about, and the media needs viewers to continue their operations. This creates a positive feedback loop that influences what stories are covered and from what perspective. This also explains the actions of more liberal news organizations.
Is Vox Politically Biased?
When attempting to determine political bias, A.I. bias meters can be helpful for providing objective bias determinations without outside influence. Biasly’s A.I. Bias Score for Vox is -68%, which is classified as being “Very Liberal.” Our analysts also gave Vox a Bias Score of -28%, or “Moderately Liberal.” These scores mean that, more often than not, Vox articles have a moderate to a heavy preference for liberal reporting but occasionally produce more centrist pieces.
In the last five years, Vox has been accused of taking a consistently progressive perspective and an anti-Trump tone in its writing. This results in most of its stories having an anti-right, pro-left narrative, with charged headlines like “How Republican states are eroding local democracy” and “The staggering fine print of Texas and Florida’s new anti-trans bills.”
But is Vox really as biased as purported? Let’s take a look at some of its recent publications to find out. Please note that these ratings and the analysis we’ll provide below only reflect news articles published on Vox’s website and do not account for any other Vox output unless explicitly stated.
Analysis of Bias in Vox Online Articles
In November of 2021, Vox wrote a piece entitled “A new Supreme Court case could gut the government’s power to fight climate change.” The tone of the article is critical of the petitioners and presents their arguments as being a disaster for the environment and federal power.
Some specific instances of bias can be found in the use of language and the tone employed by the author. For example, he refers to the petitioners as “red states, energy companies, and owners of coal mines,” which could be seen as a way to dismiss or diminish their arguments.
The author clearly conveys a favorable approach to liberal interpretations of a Supreme Court case while describing the downfalls and dangers of a potential conservative one, writing about how red states could “weaken or even deactivate hundreds of laws” and “fundamentally alter the structure of the government, stripping away the government’s power on issues as diverse as workplace safety, environmental protection, access to birth control, overtime pay, and vaccination.” He portrays the petitioners as seeking to “entrench Trumpian environmental policy.” Such language implies that the petitioners’ goals are extreme and would have negative consequences across various policy areas without presenting their arguments in a balanced manner. The article clearly favors the Obama Administration’s Clean Power Plan and disfavors the petitioners in West Virginia v. Environmental Protection Agency case.
Furthermore, the article presents Justice Neil Gorsuch’s approach to nondelegation as a threat to Congress’s power and as a means for the Supreme Court to plow down decades of federal statutes. The author’s description of Gorsuch’s approach as potentially allowing the Court to “make our democracy impotent” carries a strong negative bias against Gorsuch and his judicial philosophy.
He also writes that conservative and moderate “doctrines like nondelegation and major questions threaten to retroactively undo decades of legislation,” meaning that “the federal government may soon have to fight climate change with both hands tied behind its back… while countless other laws could be next on the chopping block.” In all, the author appears to be worried that a conservative or moderate approach to these court cases would result in negative effects in terms of Congress’s ability to impose environmental regulations, among other protections.
This article also seems to suffer from author bias. One quick glance at Ian Millhiser’s Twitter profile even suggests a personal aversion to the Republican-affiliated justices of the Supreme Court. A tweet from May 26, 2023, reads:
One thing that I hate about covering people like Clarence Thomas or Neil Gorsuch is that if you accurately describe their beliefs, using quotations from their opinions, you still sound like an insane person.https://t.co/63OKUwEATq
— Ian Millhiser (@imillhiser) May 26, 2023
Millhiser seems to not approach the article about this conservative justice with objectivity or neutrality. In fact, his bio even reveals that he authored a book entitled “The Agenda: How a Republican Supreme Court is Reshaping America,” which is said to be about how the conservative justices make the “most arcane decisions” that “will fundamentally reshape America, transforming it into something far less democratic, by attacking voting rights, dismantling and vetoing the federal administrative state, ignoring the separation of church and state, and putting corporations above the law.”
An article cannot be truly balanced or unbiased if an author has this much disdain for the people and policies in question. These kinds of public sentiments of dislike are damaging to any journalist’s reputation and ostracize others who do not share left-leaning beliefs.
Analysis of Vox Opinion Articles
Unlike reporting, which is meant to provide readers with facts, quotes, and events that can be verified, opinion articles provide an opportunity for authors to express their own feelings and viewpoints on a particular topic. Readers can gain a deeper understanding of why other political parties feel and think the way they do by reading opinion editorials, which will ultimately lead to a greater sense of empathetic understanding. There is always a bias in these types of articles, however.
Interestingly, Vox’s opinion page does not identify itself as such and is instead referred to as “The Big Idea,” featuring “outside contributors’ opinions and analysis of the most important issues in politics, science, and culture.” The page immediately displays bias at first glance, featuring largely liberal viewpoints such as, “America might be ready for democratic socialism. It’s not ready for the bill,” “Working-class people are underrepresented in politics. The problem isn’t voters,” and “Ex-Trump staffers should not get plum jobs at elite universities.” These are all bold and distinctly liberal and left-leaning statements.
This example demonstrates a typical Vox opinion article: “Why we should abolish ICE — and the DEA too.” Its bias is politically progressive in nature, which is evident in the author’s choice of words. She employs emotionally charged language to describe ICE and the DEA, using terms like “egregious harms,” “human rights disgrace,” and “toxic combination” to convey a negative perception of these agencies. This language can influence readers’ opinions and shape their understanding of the issues discussed.
What’s more, the author presents a one-sided argument against ICE and the DEA, emphasizing their alleged failures and negative consequences while downplaying or ignoring any positive aspects or successes associated with these agencies. This selective presentation of information creates a biased perspective, as the author does not provide a balanced analysis by including alternative perspectives or counterarguments to the author’s claims. This limits the reader’s ability to critically evaluate the arguments presented and forms a one-sided narrative.
With Vox’s opinions (and those from every other news source), it’s vital to critically assess the arguments presented, fact-check claims, consider alternative perspectives, and consult a range of sources to form a well-rounded understanding of the topic. Make sure to engage with diverse viewpoints and maintain a healthy skepticism while consuming opinion pieces.
Who Owns Vox?
Vox’s parent company is Vox Media, which operates several digital media brands — including Vox, The Verge, SB Nation, Polygon, and Eater — and was started by Jerome Armstrong, Tyler Bleszinski, and Markos Moulitsas in 2005. Vox Media is privately owned, and its major investors include NBCUniversal, Comcast Ventures, and General Atlantic. It has also received funding from venture capital firms and strategic partners, which may mean it is often beholden to the agenda of its stakeholders.
Even though the ownership of a media company can potentially exert influence with its bias, please note that it does not necessarily determine it. Media organizations, regardless of ownership, can have a range of influences on their content, including the personal perspectives of journalists, editorial guidelines, and the interests of their target audience.
In the case of Vox, while its ownership structure and investments may introduce certain considerations, it is crucial to evaluate the content and journalistic practices of the organization itself to assess its potential bias. Examining the consistency of reporting, the use of sources, and the diversity of viewpoints presented can provide insights into the overall bias of a media company. It is advisable to analyze a variety of sources and perspectives when seeking out information.
How to Evaluate and Uncover Bias
It can often be difficult to tell if the news you watch is biased. If you have settled on a news channel, it’s usually because you trust the information you are gaining. Unfortunately, many trust the information they are hearing because it confirms what they already believe. This is referred to as “confirmation bias.” It is important to challenge your beliefs and get third-party verification that what you are hearing is the full story. This is why we recommend using Biasly to compare different news stories side-by-side using our bias ratings to figure out what both sides think of a political issue.
All in all, Vox seems to have a strong bias against conservative individuals and policies, which is clear in their diction, tone, and authorship. While we have only examined a couple of articles, you can critically evaluate these principles in any Vox article you want to determine whether you’re reading a balanced or a biased piece of news. To help you in this, make sure to use Biasly’s News Checker to improve your media literacy and understanding of biases across news organizations.