The Associated Press has a Center media bias, though close to Lean Left. NOTE: AllSides gives a separate bias rating for AP’s Politics and Fact Check sections, which we rate as Lean Left.
AP is a source that AllSides has struggled to rate, due to its content seeming to toe the line between Center and Lean Left. People on the right may be more likely to see AP’s content as clearly Lean Left. While AP's news and world reporting is largely Center, AllSides has found AP often includes subjective, leftward analysis in hard news reports and omits sources in its political writing; in addition, its fact checks are biased to the left — read more about AP Politics and Fact Check bias here.
- About a Center Bias Rating
- August 2020 AP Blind Bias Survey
- August 2020 Editorial Review: Associated Press’ Bias Is Center — but Some Articles Display Lean Left Bias
- Types of Media Bias Displayed by AP
- February 2020 AP Blind Bias Survey
- April 2020 AP Bias Editorial Review
- August 2019 AP Bias Editorial Review
- Sept. 2018 AP Bias Editorial Review
- Third-Party Accusations of AP Media Bias
- AP Media Bias Deserves High Level of Scrutiny
- Associated Press Appears Committed to Mitigating Bias
- About the Associated Press
About a Center Bias Rating
A Center media bias rating does not necessarily mean a source is unbiased, neutral, perfectly reasonable, or credible. It simply means the source or writer rated does not predictably publish perspectives favoring either end of the political spectrum — conservative or liberal. A Center outlet may not show much predictable bias, or its bias leans to the left and right equally at different times.
Center doesn't mean better! AllSides encourages people to read outlets across the political spectrum. A media outlet with a Center rating may omit important perspectives, or run individual articles that display bias, while not displaying a lot of bias overall.
August 2020 Blind Bias Survey
Our August 2020 Blind Bias Survey of over 2,000 people across the political spectrum found that on average, people rated AP between Center and Lean Left.
A plurality of respondents from every political group surveyed found AP News’ content to be Center, with a close second rating to be Lean Left. On average, people who reported their own personal political bias as being Left, Lean Left, or Center saw AP’s bias as Center but close to the border between Lean Left and Center; people who identified as Lean Right and Right saw AP’s bias as clearly Lean Left.
This differs slightly from the results of our February 2020 blind bias survey, in which participants across the spectrum on average rated AP’s media bias as Lean Left (with respondents on the left seeing AP as closer to Center). At the time, AllSides conducted an Editorial Review of AP, in which we decided to keep AP’s bias rating as Center, but noted that AP’s bias was on the left side of center.
Why the difference in survey results? Blind bias surveys are excellent for getting an accurate reading from participants because they hide the publisher’s name and brand. Participants only see the content, not the publisher. However, they only see a snapshot of content from one or two days. Bias varies day to day, week to week. When we do an editorial review, our multi-partisan team reviews content from many different days, weeks and months, and can also evaluate the impact of photos and story placement/prominence on the website.
The additional review and subsequent meetings led us to keep the bias rating for AP News overall as Center (though on the left edge of Center), and to separate AP Politics and Fact Check since they clearly demonstrated a more Lean Left bias.
August 2020 Editorial Review: Associated Press’ Bias Is Center — but Some Articles Display Lean Left Bias
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. For the most part, the AllSides team, which includes people across the political spectrum, agreed that the majority of AP’s articles and story choices remain in the Center — not revealing much bias one way or the other. Its story choice and language rarely displays the 11 Types of Media Bias — though AP does display some of these biases occasionally, as we’ll spell out in detail below. Because AP’s displays of Lean Left bias are quite infrequent, AP still warrants a Center rating.
AllSides looked at AP’s content over six months and found that many days, AP’s homepage and content appears balanced, with neutral reporting free of spin, sensationalism, or other types of bias; other days, there will be up to several stories placed highly on homepage that have a lean left bias.
AP’s bias seems to vary article by article, but it is mostly Center, with overt liberal or conservative bias not being displayed.
The team noticed AP tends to make left-leaning assumptions and chooses left-wing terms and phrases in some of its writing — one team member with a Lean Left bias noted AP uses the term “anti-abortion,” not “pro-life,” and was more likely to refer to “protesters,” not “rioters” in coverage of recent civil unrest. These indicators of a Lean Left bias aside, AllSides found AP’s story choice and wording still tend to be balanced overall.
AllSides noted numerous instances of apparent laziness on the part of AP when it comes to sourcing statements and substantiating its claims. The team found that AP committed omission of source attribution at times, a type of media bias in which sources are not identified, and unsubstantiated claims, when journalists make claims without including evidence to back them up. However, many of these particular displays of bias by AP didn’t necessarily lean left or right.
For example, in an article covering a police reform executive order, AP wrote, “Many officers who wind up involved in fatal incidents have long complaint histories,” without linking to information to back this up. The claim may be true, but balanced reporting cites sources.
In an article on a coronavirus vaccine, AP wrote, “scientists in Russia and other countries sounded an alarm, saying that rushing to offer the vaccine before final-stage testing could backfire.” AP does not cite which scientists said this.
One team member, who has a Lean Right bias, noted that instead of telling readers facts and letting them make judgement calls for themselves, AP often includes subjective judgement calls into its writing, and they are almost always subjective characterizations in line with a left-wing view.
In another example, AP stated, “Attorney General William Barr is defending the aggressive federal law enforcement response to civil unrest in America.” By characterizing the police response as “aggressive,” AP reveals a bias. Others, mainly those on the right, may have seen the law enforcement response to riots/protests in major U.S. cities as proportionate — or perhaps not even aggressive at all.
In another example pointed out by an AllSides team member with a Center bias, AP ran the headline, “Mayor downplays rough treatment of NYC protesters.” Just like the word “aggressive,” “rough” represents a subjective judgement; an objective report would not characterize the response at all, only describe that there was a response and detail what it entailed.
In an article titled, “Racist videos bring attention to US House race in Georgia,” AP says the candidate shared “video chats and social posts expressing racist, Islamophobic and anti-Semitic views,” yet AP provided only partial quotes from the videos. Failing to provide full quotes prevents readers from making the judgement themselves.
It should be noted that a team member with a Lean Left bias disagreed with this as being a case of bias, stating that, “We need to be careful with equating calling out racism with being as inherently left. If something is explicitly racist, that is a fact.” A Lean Right team member disagreed, noting the left and right define racism very differently — the left tends to say racism can be revealed implicitly, while the right requires more explicit evidence.
In addition, some AllSides team members noted that AP sometimes blurs the line between news and opinion; it is inconsistent in its labeling of “Analysis” content as distinct from hard news reporting. We noted some analytical content is labeled as hard news. The frequency of this is not too high, but enough to be noticeable.
For example, a left-leaning team member pointed out a June piece titled, “Trump’s two Russias confound coherent US policy” is labeled as news, but starts with this subjective analysis: “When it comes to Russia, the Trump administration just can’t seem to make up its mind.”
AllSides will keep an eye on AP to determine if it begins to merge opinion and news at a higher frequency.
One right-leaning AllSides team member noted that AP seemed to have a different standard of evidence when reporting on potential voter fraud versus potential voter suppression.
In one article, AP said there is evidence for voter fraud, but that it’s not a rampant problem; in another article, AP said voter suppression is a concern, without giving any evidence that it’s rampant.
“They don’t require an equal level of data to make those different statements,” our teammate said. “I give them credit for saying there was a “lack of evidence of widespread voter fraud,” but they don’t treat the two sides equally in terms of demand of data and interpreting how much evidence is sufficient to make the call.”
One team member, who has a Lean Right bias, said they saw an “elite media bias” with AP, saying that “the things that people in New York City and Washington, D.C. generally believe is what AP presumes to be true.”
AllSides also noted AP Fact Check appeals to elites in our April 2020 Editorial Review.
Feb. 2020 AP Blind Bias Survey
Our Feb. 2020 blind bias survey found people with Center, Lean Right and Right political views view AP's content as Lean Left; participants who identified themselves as Left and Lean Left see AP's content as on the border of Lean Left and Center. However, an April 2020 editorial review by the AllSides team found AP's slight left lean was not consistent or clear enough to warrant changing its rating to Lean Left — though we had some caveats about this rating, and acknowledged a slight Lean Left bias in some of AP's content.
During this time, we also opted to provide a separate bias rating for AP Fact Check.
During a blind bias survey, people 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.
April 2020 AP Bias Editorial Review
During the April 2020 editorial review of AP bias, the AllSides 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 used factual, objective language, and chose stories that would be of interest to those on both the left and the right. Its story choice was not biased in favor of issues that are of concern more to left-wingers or right-wingers. All team members agreed AP didn't employ bias by photo, and chose 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 was somewhat on the border of Lean Left and Center, but determined we did not have enough evidence to shift its rating to Lean Left. AP Fact Check, however, had a Lean Left bias.
All members of the AllSides editorial team agreed that it was easy to see why some people might say AP News has a Lean Left bias; some sentences and stories appeared to have a slight left lean. The bias was mostly displayed in individual sentences or via slight framing issues; the bias was not overt or glaring.
For example, AP was criticized by readers in July 2020 for a piece about President Trump's July 4th Mount Rushmore speech that displayed a clear left bias.
During our April 2020 review, there was disagreement among some editorial team members as to whether or not AP displayed 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 lacked 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 used 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 team 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 hovered on the border of Lean Left and Center. Many AP articles did not show evidence of much bias at all. However, some articles did display a slight Lean Left bias.
The team found that while AP's articles largely did not display bias, sometimes AP used emotive language in its headlines, and the outlet sometimes provided 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 was 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" was 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 was 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
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 would 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.”
AP Media Bias Deserves High Level of Scrutiny
As a media outlet that is widely considered to be a model of ethics and excellence in the journalism industry, we hold AP to a very high standard — especially when it comes to citing sources and discerning between hard news and commentary. AP should cite sources more frequently than it does, and should label content as “news” or “analysis” more judiciously.
We commend AP for not displaying bias as frequently as the majority of the media industry does. AP still earns its Center bias, though it should be careful about its inclinations toward a left-wing bias. Bias is natural for every human, and humans run media outlets (at least for now). But a media outlet that is relied upon by outlets all over the country deserves a higher standard of scrutiny when it comes to political bias.
Associated Press Appears Committed to Mitigating Bias
AP has shown some evidence it is 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.