ABC News was founded in 1945 as a radio network spin-off from NBC, or National Broadcasting Company, as ordered by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) at the time. It was founded with the intent of creating more competition within radio broadcasting, allowing for broader points of view to be broadcast. From there ABC quickly began to grow, expanding into television and later publishing on its own website. With all that said, this analysis will focus on the bias present in articles published on the ABC News website.
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 Ratings, 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, biased 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.
So is ABC News Politically Biased?
ABC News has faced accusations of bias on the basis of being too left-leaning and liberal, with studies showing that those more politically aligned with Democratic policies place greater trust in ABC News than those who lean Republican.But does this really reflect the presence of bias within ABC News?
Source: Pew Research
ABC News was given an A.I. Bias score of -16 percent, designating it as somewhat liberal, and an analyst bias score of -27 percent classifying it as moderately liberal. Author bias was given a rating of -31 percent, classifying it as moderately liberal as well. Finally, ABC News was giving a policy-leaning rating of 6 percent, or centrist. These ratings suggest that coverage provided by ABC News tends to have a more liberal lean where political topics are framed more moderately and politicians are framed more liberally.
These ratings are compiled through an analysis and averaging of bias within articles published solely on the ABC News website and exclude content published solely on their television or radio networks.
The ratings provided by Biasly are supported by those of other third-party bias assessment services like AllSides and Media Bias/Fact Check. AllSides gave ABC News a rating of -2.4, or lean left, which they define as a “moderately liberal rating on the political spectrum.” Media Bias/Fact Check rated ABC News similarly, giving it a rating of left-center which they define as “a slight to moderate liberal bias.”
Before we go any further, let’s take a moment 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.
As a company with its own bottom line, the media has the incentive to retain audiences, to encourage them to purchase subscription plans, and rate their publications positively. These audiences hold their own biases and thus, seek out new stories about the things they care about and believe in. As media companies need their viewers to keep coming back in order to stay in business, a feedback loop of sorts is created when a politicized audience encourages a media source to cover more stories in support of that ideology, drawing in a greater audience in support of that ideology and so on. This phenomenon is present in more liberal and more conservative sources.
Now that we’ve gone over how ABC News is rated in terms of bias more generally. Let’s take a deeper look at when and how bias might present itself in an ABC News article.
Analyzing the Bias in ABC News Articles
The ABC News website received over 38 million total visitors in January of 2023 and is ranked 33rd in the News & Media Publishers category within the United States. While ABC News may have started as a radio station, it has done a lot to establish itself online and across mediums as a mainstream news source for Americans across the country. So with ABC News pumping out countless articles covering a variety of issues daily, the question is, can these articles truly be trusted?
Let’s look at an article published by ABC News surrounding Georgia’s new election law:
If we look at Biasly’s breakdown of the article to start us off we can see right off the bat it was given a rating of -44 percent, making it moderately liberal. If we look further into Biasly’s analysis we can see that no policy leaning was found within this article and that its portrayal of politicians mentioned in the article had a very negative sentiment, with a rating of 98 percent.
While Bias within this article is less obvious at first glance, as we get further into it, it becomes apparent one side is given more attention than the other. If we look at the quotes and facts provided, we find that more quotes supporting those opposed to the policy granting the General Assembly greater power over voting oversight, while those in favor are only quoted briefly. Let’s look at a quote provided by Joe Biden:
“This is Jim Crow in the 21st Century. It must end,” he said of the bill. “We have a moral and Constitutional obligation to act. I once again urge Congress to pass the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to make it easier for all eligible Americans to access the ballot box and prevent attacks on the sacred right to vote.”
While the statements provided here are only quoted by the article, and thus not a direct representative of the author’s own opinions, it is notable that the author chose first to include quotes against the policy passed, and furthermore that they chose one from the sitting Democrat President. Let’s look at the next quote provided:
“I’ve been released from jail. I am not the first Georgian to be arrested for fighting voter suppression. I’d love to say I’m the last, but we know that isn’t true,” Cannon tweeted. She said the “closed-door signing” of the bill was a “product of a white supremacist system.”
While again, the statements made within this article, though rife with biased language, like the accusations of voter suppression, is simply a quote. What is especially important here is that at this point in the article, the only quotes provided have been those against the voting policy. In fact, it’s not until after several quotes from those against the bill are provided that a quote from Governor Brian Kemp, who signed the bill, is provided stating:
“Georgians will no doubt be soon overwhelmed with fancy TV ads, mailers, and radio spots attacking this common-sense election reform measure. In fact, left-wing groups funded by out-of-state billionaires are already doing that now. They’re using outrageous, false rhetoric to scare you and put millions of dollars in their own pocket,” Kemp said. “According to them, if you support voter ID for absentee ballots, you’re a racist. According to them, if you believe in protecting the security and sanctity of the ballot box, you’re a ‘Jim Crow in a suit and tie.'”
While this article is able to provide a balanced view of the situation in the sense that quotes and opinions from both sides of the aisle are provided, it is clear that there is some political leaning present.
Our analysis also analyzed and picked apart the sentiments present within this article. These sentiments were found to be largely liberal-leaning. While 8 negative sentiments towards Brian Kemp were found, only 2 positive ones were provided to counter them. Included additionally were 6 negative sentiments towards Donald Trump, 3 towards Raphael Warnock, 1 towards Joe Biden, and 1 towards Ron DeSantis.
What these measures suggest is that while there were some elements of the article that were biased towards more conservative ideologies, such as quotes somewhat supporting Kemp, the article by and large was found to lean more moderately liberal. This falls in line with our analysis of ABC News as a network with a tendency to lean moderately liberal in its biases.
How Biased is ABC’s Opinion News Section?
Let’s take a moment to discuss the difference between opinion versus reporting. Reporting is the neutral act of conveying information to an audience without advocating for any particular opinion yourself. Reporting uses a neutral tone and focuses on provable facts, events, and quotes from different parties involved. Opinion-based articles, on the other hand, make use of a more pointed tone to express the feelings, thoughts, and perspectives of the author regarding the situation being reported on.
Let’s apply these two methods of sharing information to another article published by ABC News titled “Biden calls new GOP-passed Georgia law restricting voter access an ‘atrocity,’” this one also focuses on the passing of a new voting law in Georgia that many claim will restrict voter access. In it we can find elements of both factual reporting, like the quotes from others included, and more opinionated reporting, like when the author says the following:
“On Thursday afternoon, Georgia Republicans voted to pass and sign into law a 90-page bill that severely limits voting rights in a previously Republican-dominated state that, besides Biden, also elected two Democratic senators in the 2020 election. Republicans said they were ensuring election integrity.”
While on the surface, this statement might seem free of any particularly inflammatory language, we can pick out several instances of issues being framed a certain way. The author refers to the bill being introduced as one that “severely limits voting rights.” We can see later in this same statement that those in support of the bill claimed it would ensure election integrity, however, the author chose to inject their own opinion into the article. Since these words are both pointed and from the author’s own perspective we can differentiate this piece from more factual articles, like the one we analyzed above, that instead relied on reporting on the words of others to portray different positions. We are not agreeing or disagreeing with the opinion but rather distinguishing why it contains more slant.
Who owns ABC News?
ABC News is currently owned by the Disney Company and headquartered in New York City. Disney is one of the most influential companies in the United States, making over 84 billion dollars in revenue in 2022 and spending just over 5.1 million dollars in various lobbying efforts. While the general consensus is that more conservative policies tend to favor big businesses, of those Disney contributed to in 2022 87 percent were Democratic, and just 11 percent Republican.
In addition, it’s important to note, that like most media, a considerable portion of ABC News’s funding comes from ad revenue, those exact numbers have not been reported.
Evaluating and Uncovering Bias in Your Own Lives
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.
While Biasly ultimately gave ABC News a bias rating of -16%, it’s important to keep a few things in mind. First, that bias varies from article to article and even a source like ABC News is capable of producing more liberal or even more conservative articles every now and again. Second, different types of articles come with a potential for more or less bias. More factual articles, for example, often have less bias than talk shows or opinion pieces that call for more subjectivity inherently. Finally, while every news source has some degree of bias, some are inherently more centrist than others, and you should always be sure to check out Biasly’s political leaning score at Biasly.com if you’re unsure about the bias of any particular source.
Disclaimer: Pew Research Center bears no responsibility for the analyses or interpretations of the data presented here. The opinions expressed herein, including any implications for policy, are those of the author and not of Pew Research Center.