Media Accuracy

How accurate is the news about policy? Is it more accurate in some policy areas than others? How does coverage vary across news outlets? Do media consumers get the information they need to have informed policy preferences?

These are the questions motivating the data presented here. The goal of is to disseminate measures of both the volume and accuracy of media coverage of public policy, across a broad range of topics and news sources. Our measures are based on computer-automated content analyses of millions of newspaper articles, television transcripts, and social media posts. Analyses focus on media coverage of government spending in five spending domains: defense, welfare, health, education and the environment.

Our approach to capturing media accuracy is relatively straightforward: we compare the “signal” in media coverage to actual budgetary policy change. When media coverage matches policy change, media accuracy is high. When media coverage does not match policy change, media accuracy is low. On the pages that follow, there are examples of both.

The data and resources on these pages are drawn from Information and Democracy: Public Policy in the News, a book by Stuart Soroka (UCLA) and Christopher Wlezien (UT) published in 2022 by Cambridge University Press. We outline the ideas behind this project on the Background page, and consider some of the advantages and disadvantages of our approach in the Explainer. Our methods are then outlined in Methodology. But you can also move straight to Explore, to examine the accuracy of 17 major US newspapers and 6 television network over the past 20-30 years.

Related news / podcast / blog posts:
Does the media convey accurate information about what policymakers do?, Center for Political Studies blog
How Does the Public Move Right When Policy Moves Left?, The Science of Politics Podcast
Just How Accurate Are American News Media?, MediaWell (Social Science Research Council)
Media Coverage Isn’t as Bad as You Might Think, fifteeneightyfour (Cambridge University Press blog)