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What is Real Clear Politics Bias?

By · Jan 12, 2024 · 8 min read

What is Real Clear Politics Bias?

In 2000 John McIntyre and Tom Bevan founded Real Clear Politics with the vision, “to create an online clearinghouse tailored to consumers of news and information on U.S. politics, policy, and elections.”

Today, Real Clear Politics is renowned for its polling averages, which are frequently cited by trusted cable and digital news organizations. There isn’t much information on the partisanship of Real Clear Politics viewers, so we will utilize Similarweb’s audience demographic data to come to an educated hypothesis.

The Real Clear Politics’ audience is about 70% male and 50% is older than 55 years old. Pew Research Center’s ‘Trends in Party Affiliation’ demonstrates a 12-point gender gap and a widening generational divide between registered voters, which insinuates Real Clear Politics audience has a slight conservative lean. Supporting our hypothesis is Similarweb’s data that ‘other visited websites’ by Real Clear Politics viewers include Breitbart, Fox News, Politico, the Drudge Report, and FiveThirtyEight – most of which have a conservative bias or appeal to political enthusiasts.

Democratic Party (share of women)

Source: Pew Research Center

Throughout the rest of this article, we will analyze Real Clear Politics coverage and editorial decisions to determine if there is a discernible political bias in their reporting. Through our analysis, we hope to provide a comprehensive answer to whether Real Clear Politics is biased and shed light on the factors that contribute to media bias.

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 to produce 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 metrics: 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% to 100%, with higher negative scores being more liberal and higher positive scores being more conservative, with 0% being neutral.

Is Real Clear Politics Politically Biased

Biasly’s rating for Real Clear Politics is based on two scores, one from its computer algorithm which is based on A.I., and one from its analysts. Biasly rated Real Clear Politics with a computer bias score of ‘Somewhat Conservative’ and an analyst bias score of ‘Very Conservative,’ which means, overall, it provides political coverage from a rather conservative political perspective. Analyst scores are based on an average of at least 15 articles, with each reviewed by one liberal, moderate, and conservative analyst. The more articles rated by Biasly’s analyst team for a particular source, the more accurate the analyst score. Praise for liberal politicians and policies as well as disdain toward Republican policies and politicians contribute to this rating. Biasly’s scores mostly align with determinations by other third-party bias research agencies.

Since the 2016 election, Real Clear Politics has faced criticism for being biased in favor of conservative causes. The criticism intensified because of Real Clear Politics’ unwillingness to admit Tump’s 2020 electoral defeat. Furthermore, Real Clear Politics published an article in 2019 that identified the whistle-blower who reported the phone call between Trump and the Ukrainian president that led to Trump’s impeachment. Facebook, Fox News, and other publications refused to publish the article or name the whistle-blower for concerns over his safety.

Readers, like yourself, are likely to have a strong opinion of Real Clear Politics based on their political orientation because they tend to favor conservative causes and people. This is represented by Biasly’s “Somewhat Conservative” rating. In the remainder of this article, we’ll talk about ways to identify this bias so you can separate opinions from facts and become a more informed consumer of news.

Before we begin, we need to discuss bias. Bias is a natural function of humans and we can express it both consciously and subconsciously. 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 explains the actions of many news organizations.

Analysis of Bias in Real Clear Politics Online Articles

As discussed earlier, there is little data on Real Clear Politics audience demographics; however, this is our opportunity to test the hypothesis that Real Clear Politics, or at least their viewers, have a conservative bias.

When determining bias, some of the most common metrics used include tone, author, and diction, which are the primary metrics we’ll focus on below. Tone refers to the attitude of the writing and is related to but distinct from diction, which is the writer’s word choice. The author metric refers to the author of the article and his or her demonstrated stance on issues through past articles and social media posts.

The first article we’ll examine is entitled “Photos of Migrant Detention Highlights Biden’s Border Secrecy”. Biasly has rated this article 14% on the Bias Meter, or “Somewhat Conservative”. Part of the reason for this rating is that, even though the authors try to remain neutral, the tone suggests the authors are frustrated with Joe Biden and his administration’s lack of transparency.

The tone of the article is made clear from the first sentence when the author states:

“President Joe Biden’s administration has tried for weeks to keep the public from seeing images like those released Monday of immigrant children in U.S. custody at the border sleeping on mats under foil blankets, separated in groups by plastic partitions.”

The opening sentence’s tone sets the stage for an article that is displeased with the Biden administration’s handling of the southern border; however, the author does well by remaining neutral and letting the sources speak for themselves. For example:

“The newly published photos released by Cuellar’s office show groups of children crowded together inside the partitions. Some appear to be watching television while others are lying on floor mats, some side by side. Children are shown wearing surgical masks but are close to each other.”

The diction of the article is anything but extreme. Throughout the article, the authors objectively state facts without inserting their own opinions. The strongest diction used is:

“Several of those visits revealed troubling conditions inside, including the detention of large numbers of children as young as 5 separated from their parents.”

All things considered, the authors remained highly objective, speaking of the facts, which shows that the bias is mostly centered on this article.

The authors themselves, Momaan Merchant, Jonathan Lemire, & Josh Boak, demonstrate little author bias and have a track record of high journalistic integrity. Furthermore, their Twitter profiles (linked above) display an array of ideological viewpoints and minimal partisanship. Examples of tweets can be seen below.

In summation, the authors portray a tone of frustration toward the Biden administration’s handling of the southern border and their lack of transparency with the press. However, the article meets high standards of journalistic integrity and does an excellent job of remaining objective while utilizing a variety of sources and opinions. This demonstrates that even though Real Clear Politics has a conservative bias, many of their articles adhere to norms of journalistic integrity and should be regarded as quality reporting.

Even though this article is relatively devoid of bias, article bias differs between articles and authors, even when they come from the same organization. This reinforces the importance of looking for the signs of bias – including (but not limited to) tone, tendency, diction, and author bias.

Here is another analysis article from Real Clear Politics that displays little bias, “Will Rioting Sway the Election Picture”. Bialsy rated the article 46% or ‘moderately conservative’. The article compares the 2020 election to historical examples, such as the 1948 election between incumbent Harry Truman and New York Gov. Thomas E. Dewey. The article also discusses various election theories, such as:

“an old theory that political scientists call “retrospective voting.”  The idea is pretty straightforward: When voters go into the voting booth they aren’t making a choice between two candidates.  Instead, they’re mostly passing judgment on the incumbent candidate’s performance.”

The article’s ‘moderately conservative’ rating is predominantly because the article focuses on electoral changes that would benefit Donald Trump; however, the analysis is quality journalism that is grounded in historical examples. It is important to remember that Real Clear Politics is a clearinghouse of political coverage, so there is variation in the quality of articles on their website.

Analysis of Real Clear Politics Opinion Articles

Before we jump into opinion articles it is important to distinguish between opinion and reporting. While reporting is intended to be neutral, giving the reader facts and quotes from primary sources to let them form their own opinion, opinion pieces are an opportunity for columnists to express their personal views on issues. While we saw elements of factual reporting in the analysis above, Real Clear Politics opinion pieces prioritize the advancement of the author’s argument over objectively presenting facts to the readers.

Consider the opinion article, “Biden Border Policy: Criminals Welcome.” The title is loaded with strong diction and bias, as it indicates that Biden is sending welcome cards to criminals asking them to come across the southern border. Throughout the article, the author omits sources or viewpoints that would support Biden’s border policy while attacking the potential ramifications. The omission bias, strong tone, and title suggest that the author does not intend to provide a fair and balanced reporting of the facts.

On the contrary, the article, “The Problem With Ideological Purity in Congress” has a more objective title, focusing on signaling what will be discussed rather than priming the audience for a partisan fight. Reliable articles, like this one, are marked by neutral language and facts from credible sources. Based on the title alone, it could be safely assumed that this article is less biased than the previous one.

These articles are only a small representation of Real Clear Politics’ content, but they indicate the outlet is characterized by a mix of opinion and reporting – further emphasizing the importance of knowing how to distinguish between subjective writing and quality reporting.

Who Owns Real Clear Politics

Real Clear Politics is owned by RealClearInvestors and Crest Media since they bought out Forebs Media LLC’s 51% equity interest in May 2015. The founders, John McIntyre and Tom Bevan, still play important roles at Real Clear Politics, as CEO and chief publisher, respectively.

Real Clear Politics financially struggled after the election of Donald Trump in 2016, leading to layoffs that made some question the future of the publication. Additionally, Real Clear Politics could be more transparent about its funding; however, the publication is still held in high regard for its polling averages and in-depth election coverage.

Real Clear Politic’s mission statement is, “To present our audience with informed viewpoints spanning the ideological spectrum in ways that help facilitate meaningful discourse on governance, campaigns, elections, and public policy.”

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.

Even though Biasly rated Real Clear Politics as ‘Somewhat Conservative’, bias varies by article and Real Clear Politics does not exclusively publish conservative pieces. Remember, Real Clear Politics aggregates news articles from other publications on their website, which adds a lot of variety to the bias of the articles on their site. Additionally, some article types will inherently have more or less bias; general news articles are known for being less biased than opinion pieces. While every article you read will be biased to some degree, some stick to the facts better than others, which is why it’s so important to use Biasly’s News Check to help you determine the bias of what you read.


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