On Monday, cable sports network ESPN breathlessly reported that a new survey it had commissioned and paid for proved that its viewers don’t think the network has a problem with liberal bias. But now, a closer look at ESPN’s own survey seems to show that the network completely ignored the part that said 63 percent thought the network was too liberal.
The new survey taken of ESPN viewers between May 3-7 was reported by ESPN Front Row on June 5. Network officials insisted that the survey proved that few of its viewers think the network is biased to the left. Network executives also said the perception of liberal bias has had no impact on its ratings.
The results of the Langer Research Associates survey, though, stand in stark contrast to two other surveys by two other companies not paid by ESPN for their work. The two other surveys found that ESPN has lost viewers who consider themselves center-right in political outlook.
Regardless, ESPN claims that its new survey proves no one cares about its liberal bias. Though, a closer look at the survey seems to leave a major question about the veracity of ESPN’s self-serving proclamations.
According to Sporting News, ESPN seems to have ignored the fact that its survey does, indeed, show that a large number of its viewers think the network is too liberal:
One question in the survey of 1,423 adults conducted from May 3-7 was whether they detect a political bias in ESPN’s coverage. About 30 percent of the respondents said they detect bias; within that group, 63 percent said it’s a liberal bias while 30 percent said it’s a conservative bias. The remaining 7 percent said they detect bias but declined to categorize it one way or the other.
A look at ESPN’s Monday announcement reveals that the network completely forgot to mention the 63 percent statistic.
Sporting News asked ESPN why that particular statistic was left out of its press release. The network replied that they wanted to keep their press release “short.”
As more evidence that the network is very worried about the perception that it has a problem with liberal bias was confirmed by an insider who spoke to the website. The insider told Sporting News that the survey, the press release, and the rehiring of right-leaning country artist Hank Williams, Jr., was all just “spin” meant to paper over its liberal bias problem.
“They’re responding to real criticism, but there’s no real substance,” the source said. “Hank Williams is totally a PR move: ‘We won’t hire any conservative journalists, but we’ll let Hank sing a song, the same song, for 16 weeks.’ The idea that they’re conducting research, and putting out press releases, shows they’re under siege and trying to counter.”
The words of this anonymous insider seem to ring true when coupled with the other recent surveys that do show that the sports network has a liberal bias problem.
In one case, a YouGov poll emerged in May showing that Republicans had abandoned ESPN in droves. The YouGov review, though, was an opinion poll and many dismissed it for its lack of hard numbers.
Days later, a review of ESPN viewers in the Cincinnati, Ohio, market by TV research group Deep Root found that viewers from a center-right political viewpoint had stopped watching ESPN in significant numbers.
Finally, a few weeks later, responding to criticism that its Cincinnati survey might not be representative of the country as a whole, Deep Root reviewed the data in 43 major TV markets across the nation and found that the Cincinnati results were reflected everywhere. According to Deep Root, ESPN has lost millions of viewers who consider themselves conservative or Republican. Why would these viewers have quit watching the network if they weren’t sick and tired of the constant liberal bias?
Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston or email the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.