The Associated Press has a Center media bias.
Feb. 2020 Blind Bias Survey
A February 2020 AllSides blind bias survey found that the Associated Press has a Lean Left bias. This prompted AllSides to conduct an editorial review; we ultimately decided to keep AP's bias as Center (details below). During a blind bias survey, people who hail from all sides of the political spectrum and a diverse array of ages and geographic locations rate the bias of content from a media outlet blindly, meaning all identifying branding and information is removed.
Our February 2020 blind bias survey showed that participants who identified themselves as being Left and Lean Left see AP's content as on the border of Lean Left and Center, while people from Center, Lean Right and Right all clearly rated AP's content as Lean Left.
As a result of this data, in April 2020 AllSides conducted an editorial review to determine if we needed to change the bias of AP. AllSides determined Center is still the best bias rating for AP News — though we have some caveats about this rating. We also opted to provide a separate bias rating for AP Fact Check.
An editorial review is when the AllSides team, which includes an equal number of people from the left, center and right of the political spectrum, reviews the works of a source and comes to a general consensus on its bias.
April 2020 AP Bias Editorial Review
The team agreed that AP does not display the common types of media bias — its journalists rarely employ spin or sensationalism, and rarely does AP present opinion statements as fact, which is common in news media today.
For the most part, AP uses factual, objective language, and chooses stories that would be of interest to those on both the left and the right. Its story choice is not biased in favor of issues that are of concern more to left-wingers or right-wingers. All team members agreed AP doesn’t employ bias by photo, and chooses images that are neutral in nature.
Coronavirus coverage dominated headlines on the day of our editorial review, and the AllSides team was in agreement that AP’s coronavirus coverage was balanced and unbiased.
The AllSides team generally agreed that AP is somewhat on the border of Lean Left and Center, but determined we do not have enough evidence to shift its rating to Lean Left. AP News’ fact check section, however, has a Lean Left bias.
Reservations of AP News Bias Rating
All members of the AllSides editorial team agreed that it is easy to see why some people might say AP News has a Lean Left bias; some sentences and stories appear to have a slight left lean. The bias is mostly displayed in individual sentences or via slight framing issues; the bias is not overt or glaring.
There was disagreement among some editorial team members as to whether or not AP displays bias by viewpoint placement, a type of media bias in which a story only features viewpoints from sources and commentators on one side of the issue or political spectrum. Some team members said AP’s sources and quotes are always balanced; others, mainly those on the right, said many AP articles primarily showcase quotes and opinions from left-wing sources.
Examples could be found on both sides: those who said AP sometimes lacks balance in its sourcing pointed to an article describing how Education Secretary Betsy DeVos excluded DACA recipients and foreign students from emergency college grants that were part of a congressional coronavirus rescue package; the article primarily quoted those who are against the rule, providing no perspectives that would explain the reasoning of individuals who are in favor of it. On the other hand, an article about lawmakers debating a new coronavirus aid package included balanced quotes and perspectives from both Democrat and Republican lawmakers.
The team noted that AP uses what may be seen as left-leaning terms to describe controversial issues, if only slightly. For example, an April 23, 2020 article announcing the hiring of 17 new journalists said the journalists would cover topics such as “voting security,” “gun control,” and “voter access.” The staff member pointed out that a different perspective on these issues might lead a right-wing publication to choose slightly different language, such as “gun rights” or “voting rights.”
August 2019 AP Bias Editorial Review
In Aug. 2019, the multipartisan team at AllSides conducted an Editorial Review on the Associated Press. The team concluded that AP's bias hovers on the border of Lean Left and Center. Many AP articles do not show evidence of much bias at all. However, some articles may display a slight Lean Left bias.
The team found that while AP's articles largely do not display bias, sometimes AP uses emotive language in its headlines, and the outlet may sometimes provide interpretation in its news articles rather than straight factual reporting. AllSides team members who have a Center-Right bias disagreed slightly with editorial team members who have a Lean Left bias when it came to determining whether or not AP is interpreting information or reporting events factually.
For example, the team analyzed an article titled, "Biden: Racism in US is institutional, ‘white man’s problem’", in which an AP reporter wrote: "Taking aim at incendiary racial appeals by Trump, Biden said in an interview with a small group of reporters on Tuesday that a president’s words can “appeal to the worst damn instincts of human nature,” just as they can move markets or take a nation into war."
An editorial team member with a Center-Right bias said AP's use of the term "incendiary racial appeals" is interpretation, not fact, and that objective reporting would require AP to note what Trump said specifically and allow readers to decide for themselves whether or not his remarks are "incendiary"; however, a staffer on the Left disagreed, saying AP's language is a factual and accurate descriptor of Trump's words, and does not represent subjective interpretation. The disagreement over whether or not this amounts to bias harkens back to how those on the left and the right define "racism" differently.
Sept. 2018 AP Bias Editorial Review
However, in the months leading up to Sept. 2018, AllSides received messages from readers concerned that AP's media bias had shifted Left after President Trump's election. AllSides conducted an editorial review during the last week of Sept. 2018 to address these concerns. However, news about Brett Kavanaugh's Supreme Court nomination was dominating the news cycle during this time, which impacted our ability to get a comprehensive view of AP's media bias as it stands for a variety of issues. AllSides will continue to assess AP media bias over time.
The AllSides team agreed that AP's coverage of Kavanaugh's confirmation was Lean Left — perhaps falling somewhere between Lean Left and Center. Some on the team noted that articles such as, "Kavanaugh-Ford hearing: A dramatic lesson on gender roles" — which criticized Kavanaugh for being defiant and seemed to celebrate Ford for being sympathetic during the hearing — was written with a Lean Left media bias. Overall, AP's coverage of the hearing focused more on Kavanaugh's defiance and proclamations that the process had been a "national disgrace," while largely ignoring how Kavanaugh spoke about the impact of the allegations and media coverage on his family.
AllSides found that most of the coverage of Kavanaugh's hearing was Lean Left. However, the rest of AP's coverage appeared to have a Center bias.
Third-Party Accusations of AP Media Bias
AllSides does not rate the bias of Twitter feeds or other social media content, but some on the left and the right have criticized AP's tweets in particular as being biased.
Some on the left, such as Maxwell Tani writing at The Daily Beast, have said AP's efforts to be unbiased "uncritically amplify" Trump and are "frequently tone-deaf and equivocating posts that often read like a caricature of “both sides” journalism."
Conservatives have also accused AP of bias. In Dec. 2018, conservatives criticized AP over a tweet about George H.W. Bush's death that read, "George H.W. Bush, a patrician New Englander whose presidency soared with the coalition victory over Iraq in Kuwait, but then plummeted in the throes of a weak economy that led voters to turn him out of office after a single term, has died. He was 94." AP deleted the tweet, writing, "We’ve deleted a tweet and revised a story on the death of President George H.W. Bush because the tweet and the opening of the story referenced his 1992 electoral defeat and omitted his WWII service."
When the Daily Beast reached out to AP "asking why the organization has been forced to delete, correct, or clarify so many tweets," a spokesperson replied, “AP’s news values require accurate, fair and unbiased reporting on every platform. When a mistake is made, we correct it and are transparent about doing so.”
Associated Press Appears Committed to Mitigating Bias
AP appears to be committed to being balanced. According to The Daily Beast, a January 2018 email obtained by the outlet showed AP’s Washington bureau chief Julie Pace expressing concerns about reporters’ tweets appearing to suggest political bias against Trump and his administration.
“Everyone in the bureau has an obligation to be even-handed when tweeting about the government and the president,” she wrote. “There are countless readers and political operatives always on the lookout for signs of bias. Your posture on social media is just as important as the stories on the wire. Particularly given the number of sensitive topics this bureau is reporting about these days, I’d ask you all to be extra cautious going forward.”
The company’s VP of standards, John Daniszewski, stated, “AP employees are not allowed to applaud, cheer or mock a politician’s tweet or a public figure’s speech, no matter how moving. Our job is to cover news,” Daniszewski said. “Any expression of opinion that calls into question the AP’s commitment to do its job objectively and fairly undermines the hard-fought credibility of our reporting—both to our sources and to our audience.”
The email continued: “Even when tempted to resend a tweet or photo that is witty and amusing, ask, is this tweet expressing a point of view?”
About the Associated Press
From AP's About Page:
The AP is one of the largest and most trusted sources of independent newsgathering, supplying a steady stream of news to its members, international subscribers and commercial customers.
AP is neither privately owned nor government-funded; instead, as a not-for-profit news cooperative owned by its American newspaper and broadcast members, it can maintain its single-minded focus on newsgathering and its commitment to the highest standards of objective, accurate journalism.
The Associated Press is the essential global news network, delivering accurate, insightful news from every corner of the world, 24 hours a day. Since its founding in 1846, AP has been the first to report many of history’s most important moments, and every day, AP journalists, photographers and videographers file news from the front lines of the world's biggest stories. AP’s reporting, photography, audio and video are published and broadcast by the world’s leading newspapers, TV channels, apps, radio stations, websites and magazines—in fact, over half the world’s population sees AP news content on any given day. As a leader in the field of journalism, AP fights for freedom of the press and the public’s right to know. Its reporters take great risks to file in-depth stories from countries where the press is otherwise restrained, and in the U.S., AP aggressively uses the Freedom of Information Act to advocate for transparency and accountability in government. With more experience reporting and delivering news than any other agency, a well-earned reputation for independence and accuracy, and a fierce commitment to the people’s right to know, AP is the definitive source for trusted news.