The Associated Press's media bias rating is featured on the AllSides Media Bias Chart™.
The Associated Press has a Lean Left AllSides Media Bias Rating™.
Types of media bias AllSides has most often detected in AP U.S. political news coverage includes analysis presented as fact, subjective qualifying adjectives, word choice bias, bias by omission of views and omission of source attribution. AllSides primarily assesses content that appears on apnews.com for bias, though we have sometimes assessed its wire content for bias as well.
Table of Contents
- AllSides Editorial Team Clarifies Lean Left Bias Rating for Associated Press, Aug. 2022
- AllSides Analysis of Bias in Individual, High-Profile AP Articles Finds Lean Left Bias
- AllSides Analysis: AP Shared False Story About a Capitol Officer's Death
- Associated Press Rated Lean Left in Sept. 2020 Editorial Review
- Associated Press Bias Rated on Border of Center, Lean Left in August 2020 Blind Bias Survey
- August 2020 Editorial Review: Associated Press’ Media Bias Is Center — but Some Articles Display Lean Left Bias
- Types of Media Bias Displayed by AP
- Associated Press Bias Rated Lean Left in February 2020 Blind Bias Survey
- Associated Press Bias Rated Center in April 2020 Editorial Review
- Associated Press Bias Rated on Board of Center and Lean Left in Aug. 2019 Editorial Review
- Sept. 2018 AP Media Bias Editorial Review: Brett Kavanaugh Coverage Leans Left
- Third-Party Accusations of AP Media Bias
- Why AP Media Bias Deserves High Level of Scrutiny
- Associated Press Leadership Comments on Media Bias
- About the Associated Press
- Who Owns and Funds The Associated Press
AllSides Editorial Team Clarifies Lean Left Bias Rating of Associated Press, Aug. 2022
From Sept. 2020 to Aug. 2022, AllSides rated AP’s U.S. politics content separately as Lean Left and rated AP’s general and world news content as Center. At the time, we thought two ratings better captured AP’s vast amount of content, which is commonly featured in national and local outlets across the political spectrum via AP’s wire service, and differences between AP's political coverage and coverage of other matters. Reflecting these dual ratings, AP appeared twice on Version 6 of the AllSides Media Bias Chart™ — its politics rating in the Lean Left column, and its general rating in the Center column.
Over time, we discovered people often interpreted our AP ratings differently than we intended. With the AP logo at the top of the center column in our bias chart, people first noticed that, and thought we had rated AP’s U.S. political news content as Center, when in reality, our data clearly indicated a Lean Left bias.
In addition, AllSides doesn’t typically assess news on non-political stories when choosing a bias rating for news outlets. We thought that AP’s unusually large quantity of news warranted two separate ratings, but we later learned that treating AP differently than other outlets simply confused our audience.
Therefore, in Aug. 2022, we decided to make a change to more clearly convey our data and bias analysis. The Associated Press now has just one rating: Lean Left. Like other media bias ratings, this rating reflects the bias in AP reports on U.S. political news. Like other outlets with a fact checking department, we continue to rate AP’s Fact Check section separately. See the AllSides Fact Check Bias Chart™.
This clarification and other updates are reflected in Version 7 of the AllSides Media Bias Chart™.
AllSides Analysis of Bias in Individual, High-Profile AP Articles Finds Lean Left Bias
In addition to AllSides media bias rating methods such as Editorial Reviews and Blind Bias Surveys, AllSides sometimes issues individual analysis of single, high-profile stories that display bias, or of controversial newsroom standards. The following are media bias analyses of individual Associated Press articles or standards that showed Lean Left bias:
- Media Bias Alert: AP Omits Other Side in Transgender Style Guidelines
- Media Bias Alert: NPR, AP, CBS Criticized for Description of Shinzo Abe
- Media Bias Alert: Texas Paper Levels With Readers After Reprinting Biased AP Story
- Transparency Troubles: How the Associated Press Mixes News and Subjectivity
- Media Bias Alert: AP and Reuters Issue One-Sided Fact Checks on “Mass Formation Psychosis”
- Perspectives: Newsrooms Capitalizing Black and White (mentions AP standards)
- Media Bias Alert: Details Omitted in Reports of Kenosha Shooting (briefly mentions AP coverage)
- Did The New York Times Spread Disinformation About a Capitol Officer’s Death? (mentions AP repeating a false story on Twitter)
AllSides Analysis: AP Repeated False Story About a Capitol Officer's Death
In 2021, an AllSides analysis determined that on Twitter, the Associated Press repeated the false story that Capitol police officer Brian D. Sicknick was beaten to death with fire extinguisher by Trump supporters who stormed the Capitol building on Jan. 6. The story spread rapidly through the press after initially being reported by The New York Times. Some accused media outlets of spreading misinformation. AllSides details the story and charges of misinformation here.
Associated Press Rated Lean Left in Sept. 2020 Editorial Review
The Associated Press' U.S. political news and fact check sections were rated separately as Lean Left in a Sept. 2020 analysis by an AllSides expert panel. The types of media bias AP displayed included omission of source attribution, analysis and opinion presented as fact, subjective qualifying adjectives, flawed logic, word choice bias, and elite media bias. Read more here.
AP's political coverage very constantly included subjective analysis in political news coverage, often analyzing or framing the story in a way that couldn’t be objectively inferred from available facts and amounting to interpretation. We found subjective language often employed in ways that cast President Trump, the Republican Party, or conservative/right-leaning values and topics in a negative light. AllSides found numerous AP Politics stories that seemed to favor left-leaning perspectives or standpoints. Over months of thorough reviews, we failed to locate any AP stories that seem to favor right-leaning angles or standpoints.
Associatd Press Bias Rated on Border of Center, Lean Left in August 2020 AllSides 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.
August 2020 AllSides Editorial Review: Associated Press’ Bias Is Center — but Some Articles Display Lean Left Bias
An Aug. 2020 Editorial Review found AP's bias to be Center, but with some Lean Left indicators.
An Editorial Review is when an expert panel, 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 panel agreed during our Aug. 2020 Editorial Review that while the majority of AP’s articles and story choices remained in the Center — not revealing much bias one way or the other, AP did display the following types of media bias:
- word choice bias
- bias by omission of source attribution
- opinion/analysis statements presented as fact
- flawed logic
- elite media bias
- subjective qualifying adjectives
- Read more here.
Because AP’s displays of Lean Left bias were infrequent, the panel determined that AP still warranted a Center rating. AllSides looked at AP’s content over six months and found that many days, AP’s homepage and content appeared balanced, with neutral reporting free of spin, sensationalism, or other types of bias; other days, there would be several stories placed highly on the homepage that had a Lean Left bias. AP’s bias seemed to vary article by article, but it was mostly Center, with overt, very frequent bias not being displayed.
Types of Media Bias Displayed by AP: Sept. and Aug. 2020
Word Choice — The panel noticed AP tended to make left-leaning assumptions and chose left-wing terms and phrases in some of its writing — one panelist with a Lean Left bias noted AP used the term “anti-abortion,” not “pro-life,” and was more likely to refer to “protesters,” not “rioters” in coverage of 2020 civil unrest.
These indicators of a Lean Left bias aside, AllSides found AP’s story choice and wording still tended to be balanced overall.
Omission of Source Attribution/Unsubstantiated Claims — AllSides noted numerous instances in which AP failed to source statements and substantiate its claims. 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 did not cite which scientists said this.
Opinion Statements Presented as Fact / Subjective Qualifying Adjectives— One reviewer, who has a Lean Right bias, noted that instead of telling readers facts and letting them make judgement calls for themselves, AP often inserted subjective judgement calls into its writing, and they were almost always subjective characterizations in line with a left-wing view. In an 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, saw the law enforcement response to riots/protests in major U.S. cities in Summer 2020 as either proportionate, or not aggressive at all.
In another example pointed out by an AllSides panelist 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. Here, AP displayed use of subjective qualifying adjectives.
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 panelist 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 reviewer 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 panelists noted that AP sometimes blurred the line between news and opinion; it was 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 was 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.” Related: How AllSides Labels Curated Content (News, Opinion, Analysis, Fact Check)
AllSides will keep an eye on AP to determine if it begins to merge opinion and news at a higher frequency.
Flawed Logic – One right-leaning AllSides reviewer 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,” the panelist 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.”
Elite Media Bias — One panelist 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.
Associated Press Bias Rated Lean Left in Feb. 2020 Blind Bias Survey
Our Feb. 2020 Blind Bias Survey found people on average rated AP as Lean Left.
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 saw AP's content as on the border of Lean Left and Center.
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.
Associated Press Bias Rated Center in April 2020 AllSides Editorial Review
During the April 2020 editorial review of AP bias, the AllSides expert panel 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. The AllSides panel 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.
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 panelists 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 panel was in agreement that AP’s coronavirus coverage was balanced and unbiased.
All members of the AllSides editorial reviewers 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 panelists 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 reviewers 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 panel 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 panelist 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.”
Associated Press Bias Rated on Border of Center and Lean Left in August 2019 Editorial Review
In Aug. 2019, the multipartisan expert panel at AllSides conducted an Editorial Review on the Associated Press. The expert panel 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 panel 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 reviewers who have a Center-Right bias disagreed slightly with editorial panelists 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 panel 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 panelist 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 Media Bias Editorial Review: Brett Kavanaugh Coverage Leans Left
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 panel agreed that AP's coverage of Kavanaugh's confirmation was Lean Left — perhaps falling somewhere between Lean Left and Center. Some on the panel 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 Lean Left slant, subjective qualifying adjectives, analysis presented as fact, and bias by viewpoint placement. Instead of directly quoting Kavanaugh in a neutral way, it issued many subjective characterizations, filtering what happened through the lens of the journalist and quotes by people in favor of Ford. The piece did not provide full quotes nor allow readers to decide for themselves what they think about Kavanaugh's reactions.
Some examples of bias indicators from this article include (emphasis ours):
- "Kavanaugh aggressively interrupted his interrogators and even asked sharp questions of his own." - subjective qualifying adjectives
- "He let his anger flare repeatedly, interrupted his questioners and cried several times during his opening statement. She strived to remain calm and polite, despite her nervousness, and mostly held back her tears." - analysis presented as fact, slant
- "...Christine Blasey Ford and Brett Kavanaugh served as Exhibits A and B for a tutorial on gender roles and stereotypes." - analysis presented as fact - according to who?
- Quotes numerous people casting Kavanaugh in a negative light, quotes more people in favor of Ford, calling her "persuasive," "calm," "soft-spoken," and giving other positive attributes. Does not include any voices defending Kavanuagh — bias by viewpoint placement/bias by omission
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
AP has received criticism on the left and right for alleged bias.
In July 2022, Fox News criticized the Associated Press' coverage of the death of Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe, saying AP was included in the "latest example of outlets bashing dead conservatives," and noting that the Associated Press "in the past was known for neutral, swift-breaking news." Fox News also said AP's reporting on Democrats' 2022 Inflation Reduction Act was "gleeful" and said the media outlet "celebrated the passage" of the bill.
In July 2022, AP’s transgender style guidelines drew criticism from many media outlets AllSides rated on the right at the time, such as National Review, The Post Millennial, Newsbusters, Spiked, and The Daily Wire. (AllSides also wrote about how the new guidlines showed bias.)
The National Review's Abigail Anthony said "the [Associated Press] guidance appears to explicitly embrace the language and claims of transgender activists, a move likely to steer newsrooms away from objectively framing the issue," a sentiment echoed by The Daily Wire writer Greg Wilson.
"Does the Associated Press expect journalists to lie?" the Spiked headline inquired, with writer Jo Bartosch stating, "The new AP style guide on trans issues elevates gender ideology over the truth."
"Ironically, the new [AP] ‘Topical Guide’ on transgenderism advises the use of ‘unbiased language’ and to ‘avoid false balance [by] giving a platform to unqualified claims or sources in the guise of balancing a story by including all views’. And yet, the stylebook is itself saturated in unbalanced, unscientific trans ideology," Bartosch wrote.
In 2019, Maxwell Tani writing at The Daily Beast said AP's efforts to be unbiased "uncritically amplify" Trump and were "frequently tone-deaf and equivocating posts that often read like a caricature of “both sides” journalism."
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.”
Why AP Media Bias Deserves High Level of Scrutiny
The Associated Press has historically been considered the "gold standard" of objective journalism. It operates a wire service, meaning local and national news organizations around the country use AP's content to fill gaps in their coverage. That means AP news content has extremely wide impact and reach.
As such, AllSides holds AP to a very high standard. When AP displays political bias, or fails to portray political events, legislation, and perspectives in a balanced and even-handed way, the impact is broad and far-reaching. A media outlet that is relied upon by outlets all over the country deserves a high standard of scrutiny when it comes to political bias.
Associated Press Leadership Comments on Media Bias
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?”
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.
Who Owns and Funds the Associated Press
Note: Funding and ownership is not taken into account when determining AllSides Media Bias Ratings. While it's true ownership and financial interests can affect what goes to print, our bias ratings are determined by assessing the bias of content only. We provide financial and ownership information as an FYI to our readers.
Financing and ownership information last updated February 22, 2021. If you think this information is out of date or needs to be updated, please contact us.