NEW STUDY: Hyper-Partisan Politicians Received 4x More Coverage Than Bipartisan Problem Solvers in America’s Top Media Outlets
Civic Movement Starts With Us Launches National Petition for News Organizations to Change Their Coverage, Broadcast Bipartisan Problem Solvers
March 13, 2023 – Starts With Us, a growing movement of 1.4 million people dedicated to overcoming extreme political and cultural division in America, is releasing new data that shows the discrepancy in media coverage between hyper-partisan politicians and bipartisan problem solvers in Congress and rallying Americans to be part of the solution. According to a study conducted with the Center for Media and Public Affairs (CMPA) at George Mason University, hyper-partisan politicians received more than 4x the coverage their bipartisan colleagues did around the 2022 midterm elections across the most-viewed online news sites and cable news programs as well as the nation’s four morning shows.
“The sheer scale of the coverage imbalance is shocking,” says Tom Fishman, CEO of Starts With Us. “We understand that media is a business, and partisan voices warrant a place in the coverage. But when the crucial work of bipartisan problem solving gets this dramatically overlooked, citizens despair and disengage. We’re rallying our community to let the media know there’s a hunger for the full picture, and we’re committed to amplifying those stories.”
In a national, nonpartisan petition, Starts With Us calls on the media to cover the often-overlooked stories of bipartisan success. The petition, which can be signed at changethecoverage.com, asks the online outlets and television programs analyzed in the study to interview at least one bipartisan who is constructively advancing solutions by the end of April. Additionally, it calls on those outlets to create a recurring homepage column or prime time segment before July 4, 2023, as a way of correcting the coverage imbalance.
“When I worked at MSNBC, our job was to do whatever was necessary to keep the audience watching, and that usually meant choosing stories that stoked anger and portrayed a divided America — which pushes people further into their political tribes,” says Ariana Pekary, a media entrepreneur and Starts With Us Movement Partner. “Reimagining what the news looks like will take a commitment from both the media and the American public.”
According to S. Robert Lichter, Director of CMPA, Professor of Communication at George Mason University, and author of more than a dozen books on related topics, the study reveals a truth we can no longer afford to ignore. He says, “The media may decry partisan politics, but they grant it the priceless gift of visibility.”
Starts With Us worked with Common Ground Committee (CGC), a nonpartisan, nonprofit group that promotes bipartisan conversations, to identify the politicians analyzed in the study. Through the use of the Common Ground Scorecard™, a total of fourteen members of Congress — seven hyper-partisan low scorers and seven bipartisan high scorers — were identified based on average scores from 2022 and 2021. A variety of measures, including whether they have worked on bipartisan legislation, how they publicly converse across differences, their promotion of bipartisanship, and their motivation to find common ground inform a politician’s score. The Scorecard does not make value judgments of the politicians nor does it evaluate positions, ideology, or other policy conditions.
After combining Scorecard results from 2022 and 2021, the lowest-scoring politician was Marjorie Taylor Greene (GA-14-R), and the highest-scoring politician was Don Bacon (NE-2-R). Greene generated nearly 10x more coverage during the studied time frame than Bacon, appearing in 335 news items compared to Bacon’s 34. Greene also received more than double the news coverage of all of the bipartisan politicians in the study combined.
“We are proud that our Scorecard could support this study and hope this is the beginning of an increased spotlight on common ground, which is essential to our democracy,” says Erik Olsen, Co-Founder of Common Ground Committee.
Through an accompanying poll1 fielded in partnership with YouGov, Starts With Us shows the impact of these divisive coverage patterns on the American public. The most hyper-partisan politicians have widespread name recognition, and the most bipartisan remain largely unheard of: nearly three-quarters of people polled (72%) said they have heard of Marjorie Taylor Greene, but only a small minority (18%) have heard of Don Bacon.
To sign the petition and view the study’s methodology, visit www.changethecoverage.com. To learn more about Starts With Us, visit www.startswith.us. Starts With Us is not affiliated with any political campaign or party, and this information is not an endorsement or statement of opposition to any politician or party.
1Starts With Us commissioned YouGov to field this survey, which is based on 1,091 interviews conducted on the internet of registered voters. The sample was weighted according to gender, age, race/ethnicity, education, and U.S. Census region based on voter registration lists, the U.S. Census American Community Survey, and the U.S. Census Current Population Survey, as well as 2020 Presidential vote. Respondents were selected from YouGov to be representative of registered voters. The weights range from 0.34 to 5.07 with a mean of 1 and a standard deviation of 0.48. The margin of error is approximately 3.3%.
About Starts With Us
Starts With Us is a growing movement to empower Americans with the skills to overcome extreme division. The movement has already amassed over 1.4 million followers and seeks to represent the 87% of Americans who are exhausted by division in our politics2 and are ready to take action. Starts With Us leverages media and technology to foster curiosity, compassion, and courage across lines of difference. Starts With Us was founded by KIND Snacks Founder Daniel Lubetzky in partnership with 200 cross-industry leaders. It is a project of the Lubetzky Family Foundation. Join the movement by visiting www.startswith.us.
About the Center for Media and Public Affairs
The Center for Media and Public Affairs (CMPA) is a nonpartisan research and educational organization that conducts scientific studies of news and entertainment media. CMPA’s goal is to provide an empirical basis for ongoing debates over media coverage and impact through well-documented, timely, and readable studies. Since its formation in 1985, CMPA has emerged as a unique institution that bridges the gap between academic research and the broader domains of media and public policy.
About Common Ground Committee
Common Ground Committee (CGC) is a nonpartisan, nonprofit 501(c)(3) citizen-led organization dedicated to bringing healing to the national challenges of polarization and incivility. Since its founding in 2009, CGC has held 19 public forums featuring panelists who have reached over 250 points of consensus. Panelists have included such notable pairings as John Kerry and Condoleezza Rice, Chris Murphy and Will Hurd, Reince Priebus and James Carville, Chris Wallace and Maggie Haberman, and Larry Kudlow and Barney Frank, exploring issues ranging from race and income inequality to foreign policy. CGC produces the Let’s Find Common Ground podcast series, which has had over 340,000 downloads and over 170,000 subscribers. CGC also created the Common Ground Scorecard, a voting tool that scores politicians and candidates for public office on their likelihood to find common ground with the opposite party. Free of political agenda and financial influence, CGC has a singular focus on bringing light, not heat, to public discourse.
2Starts With Us commissioned YouGov to field this survey based on 1,005 interviews of U.S. adults October 5 to 10, 2022. Respondents were selected to be nationally representative. The weights range from 0.17 to 6.01, with a mean of 1 and a standard deviation of 0.61. The margin of error is 3.6%.