How right-wing are journalists on economic issues?

Henry Farrell writes:

…there’s plenty of survey evidence (Jonathan Chait discusses this in his recent book) that journalists tend to have somewhat right-of-center views on economic issues.

From my experience:

1. Journalists are likely to be far more cosmopolitan (pro-free trade, pro-immigration) than is the general public.

2. Journalists are more likely to be suspicious of corporations and indeed more likely to be suspicious in general.  People lie to them every day, repeatedly and often without shame.

3. Journalists are more likely to think that "good government" is in fact possible, if perhaps difficult to achieve.  If they were complete cynics, they would not become underpaid journalists. 

4. If anything, it is the odd mix between cynicism and idealism that defines the journalistic political point of view.

5. Most journalists work in a declining sector — newspapers or TV — and this does not augur well for their belief in progress and the virtues of economic growth.  They are not well-positioned to enjoy "creative destruction."

6. Not many top journalists are "far left Democrats."  But most are Democrats.  I also do not think many journalists would endorse the economic proposals of the rational wing of the Republican Party, say Greg Mankiw or Martin Feldstein.  Journalists are likely to think those proposals do not show enough concern for the poor.

7. Journalists tend to favor visible stories and neglect invisible opportunity costs and invisible hand mechanisms, which often but not always puts them against the side of the market.

8. Chait cites evidence that journalists are more likely to support cuts in Medicare and Social Security.  This comes on p.142 though it does not seem to be matched to a particular footnote.  I am willing to hear more but I am not convinced.  I wouldn’t be shocked if a Pew survey showed such responses, but when push comes to shove the self-image of "defender of the downtrodden" is more important to many journalists than "advocate of fiscal responsibility."

In sum, the left-right spectrum is not the best way to understand the economic views of journalists.  But, when it comes to economic issues, it is hard for me to put journalists on the right side of that line.

Addendum: I am indebted to Russ Roberts for a useful conversation on this topic, though of course he is not responsible for these views.


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