I know what you're thinking. This is news? But this statistical study covers 50 years of the Times
' history from 1946-1997. Here's what author Riccardo Puglisi found
The main finding is that the Times displays a Democratic partisanship, with some anti-incumbent aspects. This is the case, because there are systematically more stories about civil rights, health care, labour and social welfare during the presidential campaign, but only so when the incumbent president is a Republican. The Democratic partisanship hypothesis is confirmed by the fact that (during presidential campaigns) there is no countervailing variation in the count of stories about defense, law & crime and foreign trade. As broadly confirmed by Gallup and NES polls, these issues are more favorable to the Republican party.
In other words the Times'
story selection during campaigns significantly favor those themes which are seen as Democratic issues. However, no such anti-incumbent bias is present when the incumbent President is a Democrat. The size of the bump is significant too:
... when the incumbent president is a Republican there are on average about 26 percent more stories about Democratic topics as the presidential campaign starts. In the case of domestic stories, the eect amounts to 23 percent more stories as the campaign starts.
But the Times'
bias towards Democratic Presidents doesn't stop with the campaign:
during the term there are systematically more stories about this narrow set of Democratic topics when the president is a Democrat, even after controlling for presidential and congressional activity. There are on average around 17 percent more stories about Democratic topics under a Democratic incumbent.
Conservatives have been making this argument for decades now. Bias isn't about slanted stories so much as it is about story selection. When it comes to the New York Times
, story selection favors the Democrats by focusing on themes--civil rights, health care--which they are perceived as owning.