The Daily Mail is a tabloid newspaper and digital publication founded in the United Kingdom in 1896 by brothers Harold Harmsworth, 1st Viscount Rothermere, and Alfred Harmsworth, 1st Viscount Northcliffe. To this day, ownership of the company remains in the family as Jonathan Harmsworth, 4th Viscount Rothermere inherited the company in 1998. As a tabloid publication, the Daily Mail emphasizes sensationalized stories that often might be questionable in terms of news accuracy. Regardless, the company is enormous, receiving an average of around 380 million website views monthly. Interestingly, while a fairly low percentage of adults in the UK seem to trust the Daily Mail, a significantly higher percentage on the right trust the publication than on the left according to Pew Research Center.
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.
Is the Daily Mail Politically Biased?
Before getting into the biases of the Daily Mail, I believe it is necessary for a quick overview of United Kingdom politics as the Daily Mail is a UK company which will affect how political bias is shown in their work.
While the UK has 11 political parties in its Parliament, a handful are the largest and most influential. The Conservative Party (sometimes referred to as the ‘Tories’) is the current governing party in the UK with a majority in Parliament. As their name would imply, the Conservatives are a conservative party, although they are more generally moderate than U.S. conservatives, even being the party that legalized same-sex marriage in 2014. The second major party in the UK is Labour, a social democratic/socialist party with roots in the socialist and trade-union movements of the late 19th century. The Liberal Democrats, or Lib Dems, is a moderate liberal party somewhere in between the Conservative and Labour parties. There are also a number of local parties with varying levels of influence in Parliament, the most powerful of which is the Scottish National Party, or SNP. The SNP is a left-wing Scottish nationalist party that has grown massively in recent years in support of Scottish independence from the United Kingdom. The easiest comparison of each of these parties to American politics is as follows:
- The U.K. Conservatives Party is somewhat similar to U.S. Republicans
- The U.K. Labour Party is broadly similar to the Progressive faction of U.S. Democrats
- The U.K. Liberal Democrats are most similar to the Moderate faction of U.S. Democrats
- The U.K. Scottish National Party is broadly similar to the Progressive faction of U.S. Democrats with the addition of being pro-Scottish Independence
However, it’s important to keep in mind that these parties are not one-to-one mirrors of American parties as the two political systems are very different.
Back to the Daily Mail, Biasly’s A.I. Bias Score for the company came out to 50%, or Moderately Conservative with a Policy Leaning of 36%, also Moderately Conservative. MBFC gave a similar analysis, regarding the Daily Mail’s bias as right, as well as giving the publication a low score for credibility “due to numerous failed fact checks and poor information sourcing.”
It’s important to keep in mind that as a British publication, the Daily Mail’s conservative bias likely skews more towards the UK Conservative Party than what we think of as conservative here in the U.S., though they might align with the Republican Party as well.
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.
Analysis of Bias in Daily Mail Online Articles
While we have determined that the Daily Mail leans conservative in its bias, how does this bias present itself in its online articles? To find out, let’s examine the biases in the article “Kamala Harris kisses husband Doug Emhoff with her mask ON before flying to Rhode Island,” from the Daily Mail’s website.
This article was given an analyst bias score of 36%, or Moderately Conservative, by Biasly. The Author Bias was rated at 43%, also Moderately Conservative. In addition to its conservative-leaning, The title of this article is certainly an example of the sensationalized, tabloid media that the Daily Mail has a reputation for.
While the author of this article is employed by the Daily Mail, she has also written for a number of other publications on both sides of the aisle, from the conservative Fox News and Washington Examiner to the more liberal Business Insider and Crooks and Liars. From this variety of publications, it’s difficult to pin down the personal biases of the author herself.
The article is focused on a trip that Vice President Kamala Harris and second gentleman Doug Emhoff took to Rhode Island in May 2021. The article’s main point is ridiculing a video of the couple kissing with masks on, despite both being fully vaccinated at the time. The incident described is a 22-second clip of such a minor event that hardly seems newsworthy but is used to negatively portray the Vice President regardless. The article also makes references to the books purchased by Kamala Harris at a Rhode Island bookstore during her trip, stating:
“Upon leaving the bookstore, Harris held up the four books she purchased. The Nickel Boys is a novel about the Underground Railroad and The Topeka School is a non-fiction story about ‘white male rage’.”
This quote makes a small error in referring to The Topeka School as a “non-fiction story,” as the book is actually a fictional story influenced by the author’s life experiences, often described as “auto-fiction.” While this is a relatively small detail, it reinforces the Daily Mail’s reputation as a sensationalist tabloid. The article doesn’t really cite sources other than images and video, likely because it is over a fairly insignificant topic.
While the article’s topic is essentially insignificant, it does portray the Vice President, and by extension the Biden Administration as a whole, negatively through its criticisms of the minor events represented.
Analysis of Bias in Daily Mail Opinion Pieces
The Daily Mail’s Columnists page is their equivalent of an Opinions page, so we will examine the article “DAN WOOTTON: The arrest of Nicola Sturgeon makes the witch-hunt of Boris Johnson by the blob, Westminster establishment and MSM over a piece of cake look even more ridiculous. The missing SNP million has been a scandal hiding in plain sight,” from there. For a bit of context, Nicola Sturgeon is the former leader of the Scottish National Party who was recently arrested in an investigation into her party’s finances. You might be more familiar with Boris Johnson, the former UK Prime Minister from the Conservative Party, who also recently resigned as a member of Parliament.
With a bit of knowledge of UK politics, the title of this piece exudes pro-Conservative (Boris Johnson specifically) and anti-SNP bias. The term “witch-hunt,” is used to imply that controversies surrounding Boris Johnson are a sham and would not feel at all out of place in American politics. The author further reveals a right-wing bias by referring to Nicola Sturgeon as:
“an anti-Tory/pro-trans woke warrior, regularly calling out the Westminster government – especially the Brexit-delivering Prime Minister Boris Johnson.”
This quote favors Brexit, a generally Conservative policy in British politics, while also negatively portraying the left-wing SNP.
While this particular opinion piece very clearly favors the right of British politics, keep in mind that this is clearly labeled as the opinion of the author and that other pieces by Daily Mail columnists might show different degrees of bias.
Who Owns the Daily Mail?
Since its founding in 1896, the Daily Mail has been owned by members of the Harmsworth family. Today, that owner is Jonathan Harmswoth, also known as Lord Rothermere. The Daily Mail is owned by the parent company Daily Mail and General Trust (DMGT), which Lord Rothermere has had 100% ownership of since 2013.
The Harmsworth family has had a controversial past as well with Daily Mail co-founder and great-grandfather of the current Lord Rothermere, Harold Sidney Harmsworth, being a noted supporter of fascist movements in Italy, Germany, and even the United Kingdom throughout the 1930s. While Jonathan Harmsworth is not known to have been associated with any far-right or fascist groups himself, this past has left an undeniable stain on the legacy of his family.
Because the Daily Mail often espouses conservative beliefs, it stands to reason that Lord Rothermere himself aligns with these values.
Daily Mail Founders Harold (right) and Alfred (left) Harmsworth
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.
The Daily Mail received a Moderately Conservative bias score of 50%, but that doesn’t mean it only reports from a conservative position. Because bias will vary from article to article, Biasly’s News Bias Checker is a great tool to examine the biases of a particular article.