Study: Media Coverage Slants in Favor of Gay Marriage

The Pew Research Center found CNN, Fox News and MSNBC all tend to have stories featuring “significantly more” statements in favor of same-sex marriage than opposing it.

News stories are more likely to present viewpoints in favor of same-sex marriage than opposing it, according to study released Monday by the Pew Research Center.

The study, which looked at a sample of 500 stories released from March 18 through May 12, found that nearly half (47 percent) focused primarily on support for same-sex marriage. Just nine percent focused on opposition to same-sex marriage, while 44 percent had a mixture of both.

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In order for a story to be classified as primarily in support of or opposition to gay marriage, views presented for one side had to outnumber views for the other side 2-to-1. All other stories were classified as neutral or mixed.

"This news media focus on support held true whether the stories were reported news articles or opinion pieces, and was also the case across nearly all media sectors studied," the authors wrote.

All three major cable news networks -- CNN, Fox News Channel and MSNBC -- had stories featuring “significantly more” statements in support of same sex marriage than opposing it.

Below is a breakdown of the study’s findings on cable news.

  • MSNBC: 30% mixed, 64% supporting and 6% opposing
  • Fox News: 63% mixed, 29% supportive and 8% opposing
  • CNN: 57% mixed, 39% supporting and 4% opposing

The researchers also examined postings on Twitter, and found opinions for and against same-sex marriage were more closely aligned with public opinion on the topic -- with sentiment being more evenly split.

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The study found that the most common argument used by proponents of same-sex marriage in stories was that it is a civil rights issue. Arguments against gay marriage were varied, and included that it would hurt society, though just under 18 percent of stories included this argument.

“The findings show how same-sex marriage supporters have had a clear message and succeeded in getting that message across all sectors of mainstream media,” the authors wrote. They also noted during the study period, “commentators who favored same-sex marriage, such as Rachel Maddow and Chris Matthews, spent more time discussing the issue than commentators who opposed it, such as Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh.”

The full study can be downloaded here, and an overview can be read here.