The Sunday morning political talk shows have long played a key role in American political discourse, providing a venue for balanced discussion about key political topics. But in 2011 at least, they were heavily skewed to one political party over the other. According to a new analysis of shows like Meet the Press from Roll Call, Republican lawmakers appeared nearly twice as often as Democratic ones last year, and held a smaller advantage in previous years:
In 2009 and 2010, Republican Members held a small advantage over Democratic Members in appearances on these programs, getting 52 percent of the invites in both years. In both years, CBS had more Democrats as guests than Republicans by a narrow margin; in the same period, Fox News had more Republican guests by a wider margin.
But in 2011, the GOP lawmakers captured 64 percent of the Congressional appearances on the five shows that Roll Call tracks, and every network featured more Republican lawmakers than Democrats. Of 330 Congressional appearances tallied by Roll Call last year, 210 went to Republicans and only 120 went to Democrats — fewer if you subtract the eight appearances made by Sen. Joe Lieberman, a Connecticut Independent who caucuses with Democrats.
Certainly, some imbalance could be expected given that Republicans control the House and have a presidential primary contest, but the disparity could arguably be too great to explain this way. Michael Shanahan, assistant director of the George Washington University School of Media and Public Affairs, offered another explanation: “Democrats aren’t all that interesting.” In other words, producers find that Democrats provide less entertainment value. Either way, it means that viewers will get disproportional exposure to one world view.
Unfortunately, this is a bit of a pattern on the Sunday morning talk shows, especially for Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), who is famous for his ubiquitousness on Sunday mornings, making at least 53 appearances on Meet the Press alone.
The finding also undercuts the pervasive conservative myth about the media possessing a liberal bias. That is, unless one believes that more chances Republicans get to express their views the more they hurt themselves.