REPORT: The Lily-White, Male World of the Sunday Morning Talk Show
Continuing last year's Sunday shows project, Media Matters conducted a detailed review of guest appearances in 2014 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 Bob Schieffer, 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 Candy Crowley.
For more on the ethnicity, gender and ideology of guests on Sunday morning political talk shows, including data from MSNBC's Up with Steve Kornacki and Melissa Harris-Perry, see our full report.
White Men Dominated Guest Lineups
White Men Were The Largest Proportion Of All Guests On All Shows. The proportion of white men was prominent on all four broadcast network shows and CNN: 67 percent of guests on Face the Nation were white men, 65 percent on Fox News Sunday, 59 percent on Meet the Press and This Week, and 55 percent on State of the Union. By contrast, white men make up only 32 percent of the general population, according to data from the U.S. Census. Compared to Census data, white women were underrepresented on all five Sunday shows. African-American women, Latinos, Asian-Americans, and Middle Eastern guests were hosted extremely infrequently. In fact, Fox News Sunday hosted a single African-American woman the entire year and not one Latina, Face the Nation hosted a single Latina all year, and Fox News Sunday was the only show to host any Middle Eastern women— a single one at that.
White Men Dramatically Overrepresented In Solo Interviews. One-on-one interviews with a host provide their recipients the opportunity to promote political ideas unchallenged by other guests. White men were overwhelmingly the beneficiaries of those opportunities on all five shows. White men received 75 percent of the solo interviews on Meet the Press and Face the Nation -- the most of all shows studied. State of the Union, Fox News Sunday and This Week followed with 74, 72, and 68 percent, respectively. Again, white men represented a far larger proportion of guests on the Sunday shows than in the general population -- in every case more than double. White women, African-American women, Latinos, Asian-Americans, and Middle Eastern guests were strikingly underrepresented, with women losing out in particular. Fox News Sunday and Face the Nation did not give a single solo interview to any African-American women; Fox News Sunday, Meet the Press, and State of the Union did not give any solo interviews to Latinas; Face the Nation, Fox News Sunday, Meet the Press, and State of the Union did not give any solo interviews to Asian-American women; and not one show gave a solo interview to a Middle Eastern woman.
White Male Guests Were Mostly Neutral Or Conservative. When we looked at the gender, ethnicity and stated ideology of guests, the largest demographic was neutral white men, which composed 24 percent of all guests on the five Sunday shows. Conservative white men followed closely with 23 percent. Progressive white men were 14 percent of all guests. Neutral white women were the next largest demographic with 10 percent. All other groups were five percent or less of total guests.
Conservative White Men Received Nearly Three Of Every 10 Solo Interviews. Twenty-nine percent of all one-on-one interviews with a host on the five Sunday shows were given to conservative white men. Progressive and neutral white men followed closely with 24 and 20 percent, respectively. All other groups were six percent or less.
Eight Of The 11 Most-Hosted Elected And Administration Guests Were Republican White Men. Republican Mike Rogers, who was a Michigan congressman and chairman of the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence during the term of the study, led the most frequent guest chart with 29 total appearances, which includes 25 solo interviews. Upon leaving office in January, he was hired by CNN. The next five top guests were all white Republican men: Rep. Michael McCaul of Texas, Sen. John McCain of Arizona, Rep. Peter King of New York, Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, and Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois. Dianne Feinstein, Democratic Senator from California, was the most frequent female guest and the only woman to make the list, with eight appearances. All elected and administration officials in the top list except for one, Republican Sen. Marco Rubio from Florida, were white.
Roughly Three In Four Guests On The Sunday Shows Were Men
Men Outnumbered Women On Every Show. Men held a significant advantage over women on all the Sunday morning shows. 77 percent of all guests were men on Face the Nation and Fox News Sunday. State of the Union, Meet the Press, and This Week followed with 74, 73, and 73 percent, respectively.
Men Overwhelmingly Received Solo Interviews. On all shows, men were interviewed one-on-one with the host more than four out of five times. Face the Nation led with 89 percent of solo interviews given to men, followed by Meet the Press and State of the Union with 88 percent each, This Week with 86 percent, and Fox News Sunday with 84 percent.
Sunday Shows Guest Lists Were Extremely White
Whites Outnumbered All Other Guests On All Shows. White guests represented a significantly higher proportion than all other guests combined. Face the Nation was the least diverse by this measure, with 88 percent of guests being white. Fox News Sunday followed closely with 87 percent. Meet the Press, This Week, and State of the Union had 78, 77, and 74 percent, respectively.
White Guests Given A Large Majority Of Solo Interviews. Once again, all five Sunday shows hosted white people with much greater frequency than all other guests combined. Fox News Sunday led with 88 percent of solo interviews going to whites. State of the Union, Face the Nation, Meet the Press, and This Week were next with 86, 85, 85, and 77 percent, respectively.
Neutral Guests Dominate Everywhere But Fox
Fox News Sunday Hosted a Disproportionately Higher Amount Of Republicans And Conservatives. Fox News Sunday was the only program to host ideological guests with a significant imbalance: 45 percent of guests were Republicans or conservatives while only 22 percent were Democrats or progressives. This Week, Face the Nation and Meet the Press all hosted a plurality or majority of neutral guests. While Democrats and progressives enjoyed a small advantage on This Week, ideologically identifiable guests were closely split between left and right on the other shows, generally.
Democratic Elected And Administration Officials Held A Slight Advantage Over Republicans. Fox News Sunday and Meet the Press closely mirrored one another, with Republicans making up 60 percent of guests who are currently holding office on the former and Democrats making up 60 percent on the latter. Face the Nation hosted slightly more Republicans than Democrats -- 50 percent to 45 percent -- while This Week and State of the Union hosted more Democrats than Republicans -- 53 percent to 41 percent and 54 to 40 percent, respectively.
Ideological Journalists Were More Likely To Be Conservative. While a majority of journalists on This Week, Face the Nation, Meet the Press, and State of the Union do not describe themselves as ideological, when journalists did align with an ideology, they were much more likely to be conservative than progressive. And on Fox News Sunday, conservative journalists even outnumbered their neutral counterparts: 46 percent of journalists on Fox News Sunday were conservative while only 17 percent were progressive. Conservatives likewise outnumbered progressives on the other four shows: 22 to 20 percent on This Week, 13 to 6 percent on Face the Nation, and 21 to 6 percent on Meet the Press, and 28 to 18 percent on State of the Union.
Democrats And Progressives Given More Solo Interviews, Except On Fox. On This Week, Face the Nation, Meet the Press, and State of the Union, left-wing solo interview guests had a slight-to-moderate advantage over solo interview right-wing guests: 35 to 28 percent, 38 to 36 percent, 45 to 26 percent, and 40 to 32 percent, respectively. Fox News Sunday, conversely, gave Republicans and conservatives the larger proportion of solo interviews: 39 percent of solo interviews were given to right-wing guests while only 13 percent were given to left-wing guests.
We reviewed every edition of ABC's This Week with George Stephanopoulos, CBS' Face The Nation with Bob Schieffer, NBC's Meet The Press with Chuck Todd (Previously Meet the Press with David Gregory prior to September 7, 2014), Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace, and CNN's State of the Union with Candy Crowley during 2014. Guest appearances for all five programs were coded for gender; ethnicity; whether guests appeared in solo interviews; 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 2013 estimates and adds 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 contributed research to this report. Video by Coleman Lowndes and Meagan Hatcher-Mays.