Pew Study Reveals 5–1 Bias for Same-Sex Marriage in Media Coverage
James McGlone / Claire McMullen /
Media stories supporting redefinition of marriage outnumbered stories with the opposite viewpoint by almost five to one, according to a study released Monday by the Pew Research Center.
The study examined over 1,080 online, print, television, and radio stories from March 18—one week before the Supreme Court began hearing oral arguments on the same-sex marriage cases—through May 12. A piece was characterized as supportive or opposed if statements expressing that viewpoint outnumbered the other perspective by a ratio of two-to-one in the piece.
The imbalance was evident throughout national news media, including CNN and MSNBC. Even Fox News stories supporting same-sex marriage outnumbered those against it by almost four to one.
The tilted media coverage is one aspect of the cultural tsunami that has led over 72 percent of Americans to believe that same-sex marriage is inevitable, including 59 percent of those who continue to support marriage as the union of a man and a woman. Defenders of marriage should reject this inevitability narrative and continue to support policies that reflect the truth about marriage.
Many are using social media outlets to do just that. The Pew survey showed that, when it came to social media such as Twitter and Facebook, where the general public can directly express their viewpoints, the scales are more balanced than news media suggests. For example, Pew examined 2.4 million posts on Twitter and found a fairly even divide between support for and opposition to the redefinition of marriage. These findings reflect polls showing the American public roughly split on the question of redefining marriage.
The study also analyzed what arguments advocates on each side of the issue employed in media coverage. Supporters of same-sex marriage tend to frame the issue as one of civil rights and equality. What they do not address are the questions of what marriage is and why it matters for purposes of public policy—questions that lie at the heart of the debate.
To help you engage in the marriage debate, The Heritage Foundation—along with the National Organization for Marriage, the Family Research Council, and the Alliance Defending Freedom—has produced What You Need to Know about Marriage, a free e-book available for download at TheMarriageFacts.com.
James McGlone and Claire McMullen are currently members of the Young Leaders Program at The Heritage Foundation. For more information on interning at Heritage, please click here.