REPORT: Diversity On The Sunday Shows In 2015

››› ››› ROB SAVILLO

In 2015, the guests on the five Sunday morning political talk shows were once again overwhelmingly white, conservative, and male in every category measured. This represents little change from previous Media Matters studies of Sunday show guests in 2013 and 2014.

Continuing our annual Sunday shows projectMedia Matters conducted a detailed review of guest appearances in 2015 on five Sunday morning political talk shows that often set the media and political agenda for the week: ABC's This Week with George Stephanopoulos, CBS' Face the Nation with John Dickerson, Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace, NBC's Meet the Press with Chuck Todd, and CNN's State of the Union with Jake Tapper

White Men Dominate The Sunday Shows

White Men Were A Majority Of Total Guests On All Five Shows. On each of the five shows, white men represented more than 50 percent of all guests: 60 percent for This Week, 63 percent each for Face the Nation and Fox News Sunday, 53 percent for Meet the Press, and 56 percent for State of the Union. According to the latest U.S. Census estimates, these figures put representation of white men on the Sunday shows at nearly twice their representation (31 percent) in the general population. 


Men Were Between Two-Thirds And Three-Quarters Of All Guests On All Shows. Men represented at least two-thirds -- and in several cases as much as three-quarters -- of all guests on the Sunday shows. Face the Nation had the greatest disparity with 76 percent of guests being men. This Week and Fox News Sunday each hosted men 74 percent of the time, and State of the Union hosted men 72 percent of the time. Meet the Press, which had the best gender diversity among the shows, still hosted more than twice as many men as women.

Whites Were More Than Three-Quarters Of All Guests On All Shows. Whites were overwhelmingly represented on the Sunday shows, making up at least three-quarters of guests on all five shows. Fox News Sunday hosted the most white guests with 86 percent Face the Nation followed with 83 percent, then This Week with 77 percent, State of the Union with 76 percent, and finally Meet the Press with 75 percent. 

Men Were More Than Four-Fifths Of All Elected And Administration Guests On All Shows. Men dominated among guests that were sitting senators, representatives, governors, mayors, members of state legislatures, and members of the presidential cabinet and administration. On Fox News Sunday, an overwhelming 93 percent of elected and administration officials were men. Face the Nation followed with 92 percent, then This Week with 91 percent, Meet the Press with 85 percent, and finally State of the Union with 83 percent. 

Whites Were Three-Quarters Or More Of All Elected And Administration Guests On All Shows. Whites also were a large majority of elected and administration guests on all five shows. Fox News Sunday led with 88 percent. Face the Nation followed with 81 percent, then State of the Union with 80 percent, Meet the Press with 78 percent, and finally This Week with 75 percent.

Only State Of The Union Had Gender Equity Among Journalists In 2015. Among guests who were journalists -- which includes neutral news reporters and correspondents, opinion columnists, and pundits -- only State of the Union came close to equitable representation between men and women, with 51 percent of journalists being men and 49 percent being women. Meet the Press also stuck out as having had better representation between men and women, with 53 percent of journalists being men and 47 percent being women. Fox News Sunday, Face the Nation, and This Week all hosted men in this category much more often than women: 67 percent of journalists were men on Fox News Sunday and Face the Nation, and 63 percent on This Week.

Whites Were Two-Thirds Or More Of All Journalists On All Shows. White journalists were also overwhelming represented on the Sunday shows compared to journalists of color: 86 percent of journalists on Face the Nation were white. 85 percent of journalist guests on Fox News Sunday were white, followed by 74 percent on This Week, 72 percent on Meet the Press, and 66 percent on State of the Union.

The Conservative Advantage Continues

Conservative White Men Were A Plurality Of All Guests On The Sunday Shows. 28 percent of all guests on the five Sunday shows were conservative white men, a proportion that was much higher than their progressive -- 12 percent -- and neutral -- 19 percent -- counterparts. White women of any ideology represented 10 percent or less of all guests. Progressive African-American women were just six percent of guests. All other groups were two percent or less of all guests.

Conservative And Republican Guests Outnumbered Progressive And Democratic Guests On All Shows. Unsurprisingly, Fox News Sunday had the largest disparity between left- and right-wing guests, with 53 percent of guests being conservative or Republican. State of the Union followed with 46 percent of guests being right-wing, then Face the Nation and Meet the Press with 34 percent each, and finally This Week with 33 percent.

Four Out Of Five Sunday Shows Hosted More Elected Republicans Than Elected Democrats And Obama Administration Officials. Republicans held a majority of all elected and administration guests on three of the five Sunday Shows. Fox News Sunday had the largest disparity once again, with 67 percent of elected and administration guests being Republican. State of the Union gave Republicans the edge with 58 percent, and Face the Nation did so with 54 percent. This Week hosted slightly more Republicans than Democrats in this category -- 47 percent to 46 percent. Meet the Press was the only show to host more Democrats than Republicans -- 52 percent to 47 percent.

Republican Men Were The Largest Group Of All Elected And Administration Officials On All Shows. Among elected and administration officials, Republican men held majorities and pluralities on all five shows: 66 percent on Fox News Sunday, 54 percent on Face the Nation, 51 percent on State of the Union, 46 percent on Meet the Press, and 45 percent on This Week.

Democratic Women Outnumbered Republican Women On All Shows. Elected and administration women on the Sunday shows were more likely to be Democratic than Republican. 14 percent of elected and administration guests were Democratic women on Meet the Press, eight percent on Face the Nation, seven percent on This Week, and four percent on Fox News Sunday, while those shows hosted Republican women at two, one, or zero percent. 

White Republicans Were The largest Group Of Elected And Administration Guests On All Shows. White elected and administration officials were much more likely to be Republican than Democratic on the Sunday shows. The disparity was especially large on Fox News Sunday, where 63 percent of such guests were white Republicans. State of the Union followed with 49 percent, then Face the Nation with 46 percent, and finally Meet the Press and This Week with 42 percent.

Democratic People Of Color Outnumbered Republican People Of Color On All Shows. This Week hosted the largest proportion of Democratic people of color, with 19 percent of elected and administration guests. Meet the Press followed with 16 percent, then Face the Nation and State of the Union with 11 percent each, and finally Fox News Sunday with 8 percent. 

Conservative Journalists Outnumbered Progressive Journalists On All Shows. Among ideological journalists and pundits, conservatives held a notable edge over progressives on every show. The largest disparity was again on Fox News Sunday where ideological journalists were 45 percent conservative to just 16 percent progressive. Meet the Press, Face the Nation, and This Week each hosted conservatives more often than progressives. State of the Union hosted conservatives just slightly more than progressives -- 31 percent to 29 percent.

On Four Of Five Shows, Conservative Men Were The Largest Journalist Group. On Fox News Sunday, conservative men made up 35 percent of journalists, compared to just 15 percent for progressive men and one percent for progressive women. Conservative women made up 11 percent of journalists on the program. On Meet the Press and Face the Nation, conservative men and women each made up a larger proportion of either progressive men or women. On State of the Union, conservative women were the largest proportion of journalists, and progressive men outnumbered conservative men 18 percent to 12 percent.

Conservative Whites Had The Highest Representation Of Journalists On All Five Shows. On Fox News Sunday, conservative whites held a huge advantage over any other group, representing 43 percent of journalists on the show. Meet the Press' and State of the Union's journalists were each 24 percent white conservatives, followed by Face the Nation with 19 percent, and finally This Week with 17 percent. Progressive people of color outnumbered conservative people of color on all five shows.

Since 2013, Slight Improvement -- But Not Much Has Changed

Men Are Still Nearly Three-Quarters Of All Guests On All Shows. Over the last three years, men have held a 3-to-1 advantage over women on all five Sunday shows. There was a slight improvement last year with women moving from 25 percent in 2013 and 2014 to 27 percent in 2015.

Whites Still Make Up Four-Fifths Of All Guests On All Shows. Since 2013, whites have dominated guests on the Sunday shows. Although the numbers appear to be trending toward more diversity, the move is very slight. People of color have gone from 19 percent in 2013 to 22 percent in 2015.

White Men Were Still The Most Represented Group On All Shows. White men have held a large majority of total guests on the Sunday shows since 2013. While their numbers have dropped slightly -- from 62 percent in 2013 to 59 percent in 2015 -- the advantage still holds.

Fewer Progressives and More Conservatives Have Been Hosted Since 2013 On All Shows. Since 2013, progressive and Democratic guests have trended downward from 30 percent in 2013 to 26 percent in 2015. In contrast, conservative and Republican guests -- aside from a momentary bump in neutral guests in 2014 -- have trended upward from 36 percent in 2013 to 39 percent in 2015.

Methodology

We reviewed every edition of ABC's This Week with George Stephanopoulos, CBS' Face the Nation with John Dickerson (previously Face the Nation with Bob Schieffer prior to June 7), NBC's Meet the Press with Chuck Todd, Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace, and CNN's State of the Union with Jake Tapper (previously State of the Union with Candy Crowley prior to June 14) during 2015. Guest appearances for all five programs were coded for gender; ethnicity; whether they were journalists, administration officials, or elected officials; and for their partisanship or ideology.

Not all percentages add up to 100 due to rounding, that some guests' ethnicity could not be satisfactorily identified, and that some guests identify with more than one ethnicity. U.S. Census data comes from the most recent 2014 estimates and add up to more than 100 percent due to respondents selecting more than one race in surveys. Census data for Middle Eastern guests could not be found as the Census does not provide that category in its reports.

These classifications do not represent an analysis of what guests actually said when they appeared on a show on a given date. Coding each guest's comments for their ideological slant would have introduced enormous difficulties and opportunities for subjectivity. Instead, we simply classified guests based on their own ideological self-identification or public affiliation with an openly partisan or ideological organization or institution.

In the vast majority of cases, guests are clearly identifiable by their party or ideology (or as having none). Of course, in a few instances, these decisions were not as simple to make. We therefore constructed rules that could be applied as strictly as possible. Where a guest's identification was in question, Media Matters chose to err on the side of listing that guest toward the left.

Following are some of the principal rules coders employed in classifying guests:

  • The party designations (Democratic and Republican) are reserved for current and former officeholders, candidates, campaign staff, political consultants associated with one party or the other, and administration officials. All others are labeled conservative, progressive, or neutral.
  • The neutral category does not necessarily imply strict ideological neutrality but, rather, might better be understood as neutral/centrist/nonpartisan -- we use the term "neutral" for the sake of brevity.
  • When guests served in both Republican and Democratic administrations in the past, they were coded as neutral barring any compelling reason to do otherwise. In a few cases, however, a former official who had served under presidents from both parties became clearly identified with one ideology and were coded accordingly.
  • Our "Journalist" classification applies not only to daily reporters but also to opinion columnists, magazine writers, etc.
  • In the case of foreign officials and journalists, we labeled all as neutral -- even though the political ideology of some might be identifiable -- to avoid the need to analyze the politics of other countries. Foreign nationals were also excluded from the diversity analysis.
  • Active duty members of the armed forces were classified as members of the Obama administration. Retired officers were coded as neutral absent any other affiliation.

Charts by Oliver Willis. Oliver Willis and Cristina Lopez contributed research to this report.

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