Where are the progressive religious voices in the media?

Religious Progressives Left Behind

Summary:

Special Report Documents Skewed Representation of Religion in Major News Media

Conservative Religious Leaders Far Outnumber Progressive Leaders in Media Despite Views of Most Americans

Report attached as PDF or available online at: http://www.mediamatters.org/LeftBehind

Washington, D.C. — Media Matters for America today released “Left Behind: The Skewed Representation of Religion in Major News Media,” a special report documenting the disparity between media coverage of conservative and progressive religious leaders. Since the 2004 elections, there has been a dramatic increase in the coverage of religion in newspapers and television across the country. This increase has overwhelmingly focused on conservative religious figures as the definitive voice of religion at the expense of the vast majority of religious Americans.

“For religious progressives, this report won’t come as a surprise — they know firsthand that when it comes to a media discussion of religious issues, they rarely have a seat at the table,” said David Brock, President and CEO of Media Matters. “If the public is to have confidence in the media, the views of the vast majority of religious Americans must be represented. As our report details, those who get their news from leading press outlets could only assume that a right-wing conservative voice and a religious voice are one in the same — that is clearly not the case.”

Media Matters undertook this study in large part because of the media’s response to the 2004 elections, in which key media figures widely overemphasized the impact of “values voters” — a misleading term used by the media to describe conservative religious voters motivated by opposition to same-sex marriage and abortion, which suggested that progressive voters did not care similarly about values.

In their coverage, news organizations overwhelmingly presented a picture in which religious Americans were defined as conservative Americans. This representation in the media proved to be a misleading characterization of how these so-called “values voters” influenced the 2006 elections, in which the “value” cited most by voters was the Iraq war, not issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage.

A 2006 Zogby International exit poll showed that the “moral issue” cited most by voters was the Iraq war, and that more than twice as many voters cited greed and materialism or poverty and economic justice as “the most urgent moral crisis in American culture” as those who cited abortion or same-sex marriage.
Despite their depiction in the mainstream media, only 10 percent of evangelical Christians said abortion and same-sex marriage would be the most important factor in determining their vote.
Even though close to 90 percent of Americans identified themselves as religious in a 2006 study by the Center for American Values in Public Life, according to a post-election survey in 2004, only 32 percent of Americans identified themselves as conservative.
KEY FINDINGS:

Combining newspapers and television, conservative religious leaders we studied were quoted, mentioned, or interviewed in news stories 2.8 times as often as were progressive religious leaders.
On television news — the three major television networks, the three major cable channels, and PBS — conservative religious leaders were quoted, mentioned, or interviewed almost 3.8 times as often as progressive leaders.
In major newspapers, conservative religious leaders were quoted, mentioned, or interviewed 2.7 times as often as progressive leaders.
Report attached as PDF or available online at: http://www.mediamatters.org/LeftBehind

Posted to the web on Tuesday May 29, 2007 at 10:05 AM EST

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