Important Note: This media bias rating is only for NPR's online, written news content, NOT NPR radio. AllSides also rates NPR's fact-checking section and opinion/editorial content separately.
NPR's online news is a source that AllSides has struggled to rate. They seem to be just between Center and Lean Left. Please vote on our rating above in order to help us gather feedback.
Note that a Center bias does not necessarily mean a source is unbiased, neutral, or always reasonable. It simply means the source does not predictably publish opinions and content biased toward either side of the political spectrum. The bias of individual articles may vary.
Table of Contents
- Sept. 2021 Editorial Review: NPR Online Bias Remains Center, Close to Lean Left
- NPR Online Content Rated Center, Close to Lean Left, in Feb. 2020 Blind Bias Survey
- NPR Bias Incidents: June 2020 to Oct. 2020
- August 2019 Editorial Review: NPR Online News Bias is Center, Close to Lean Left
- About NPR's Audience
- Feb. 2019 Editorial Review: NPR Maintains Center Rating, Though Close to Lean Left
- Dec. 2017: Editorial Review and Blind Bias Survey; AllSides Creates Separate Media Bias Ratings for NPR and NPR Editorial/Opinion
- AllSides Media Bias Ratings for NPR Prior to 2017
- About NPR
- Funding, Financing and Ownership
Sept. 2021 Editorial Review: NPR Online Remains Center, Close to Lean Left
NPR online news is a source that AllSides struggles to rate — its content continually appears to be on the border of Center and Lean Left. We have even discussed if we should create a Center-Left category for sources like this. Regardless, the AllSides team, which contains people across the political spectrum, opted to keep NPR Center during an Oct. 2021 Editorial Review. This was largely unanimous; the only dissenting opinion was from an editor with a Lean Right bias, who argued they ought to be moved to Lean Left.
The team largely agreed that NPR has a slight left-wing story choice and occasional leftward slant in word choice. Yet many articles are written very straightforward, without much spin, sensationalism, or partisan slant. Right-wing perspectives are often missing, but left-wing views aren’t necessarily strongly highlighted either. It does betray a slight left lean on very controversial topics. We agreed the outlet is best thought of as Center-Left rather than a perfect Center.
NPR never publishes content that we would consider on the right, but the team found much of its content was not slanted one way or the other. Much of NPR's slight left-wing bias shows in what it does not include — stories of interest to conservatives, as well as perspectives on the right, are largely missing, even if the content it does publish is not as overtly left-wing as other liberal media outlets. Its writing is often largely down the middle, and it often avoids partisan angles on stories on highly politicized or contentious topics.
Here are some things our team noted from NPR on the day of review (Sept. 30, 2021), with review looking at content going back 6 months:
- An article interviewing former Trump supporters who voted for Biden who are no longer happy with Biden offered a unique perspective that was neither fully left nor fully right;
- Coverage on NPR polls of Biden's approval rating were straightforward and factual;
- Some headlines had a left-wing bent [emphasis ours]: "Amid Republican Efforts To Restrict Voting Rights, Biden Gives A Stark Warning" — Republicans would dispute that their efforts are meant to "restrict" rights;
- We noted some elite bias, with a bent toward/highlighting the opinions and suggestions of coastal elites and major global institutions that are not trusted by populists: "Climate Change Is Accelerating, And Humans Must Cut Emissions Now, A Major U.N. Report Warns";
- An article on NBA players refusing the COVID-19 vaccine didn't quote any of them. It remarked one player had “allegedly liked Instagram posts that include vaccine disinformation and conspiracy theories," but did not say what that misinformation or conspiracy theory was, preventing the reader from deciding for themselves; a case of bias by omission and slant;
- A lot of coronavirus coverage could be seen as neutral, but perhaps as left-wing or elitist by those who have dissident views on the topic: Do You Need To Wear A Mask Indoors Where You Live? Check This Map, If You're Pregnant, The CDC Really Wants You To Get Vaccinated Against COVID-19 (this article did not mention why pregnant people might not want the vaccine);
- An article about a push for internet voting had a favorable slant, and did not highlight the reasons people may be against this. This is likely not an angle that would be taken by outlets on the right;
- Big stories on the right, such as the Sept. 2021 Haitian migrant camp in Texas, were largely downplayed or omitted; when there is a big news story with controversy, some on our team noted NPR's coverage tilts more to the left;
- Some stories appeared to show the Biden administration in a negative light.
NPR Online Content Rated Center, Close to Lean Left, in Feb. 2020 Blind Bias Survey
A February 2020 AllSides blind bias survey found that NPR online news content maintains a Center bias, though barely, and close to Lean Left. 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.
Our February 2020 survey found that on average, people who identified themselves as being Left, Lean Left or Center viewed NPR online news content as as Center. Those who identified themselves as Lean Right and Right see NPR online news as on the border of Center and Lean Left. The overall average response of all groups is Center, though close to the border line with Lean Left. After assessing the results of the blind bias survey, AllSides determined that Center is still the best bias rating for NPR online news content only.
NPR Bias Incidents: June 2020 to Oct. 2020
In June 2020, AllSides documented a particular example of an NPR story that showed left bias and fake news, which NPR later corrected. In Oct. 2020, NPR wrote on Twitter that it would not report on The New York Post's Hunter Biden story, which suggested Hunter Biden leveraged his connection to his father, Joe Biden (former Vice President and 2020 Democratic presidential candidate) to increase his pay from Burisma, a Ukrainian energy holdings company. NPR said they would not cover the story because "we don't want to waste our time on stories that are not really stories."
August 2019 Editorial Review: NPR News Bias Is Center, Close to Lean Left
Due to ongoing community feedback from users concerned NPR deserves a Lean Left bias rating, the multipartisan team at AllSides conducted an Editorial Review of NPR online news on August 28, 2019. We determined that NPR online news maintains a Center bias, while there is some indication that some of its pieces Lean Left. While some pieces may have a slight Lean Left bent, it is not frequent enough to warrant changing the NPR online news rating to Lean Left.
While AllSides believes NPR may be on the cusp of a Lean Left rating, we also noted its bias is not as overt as other media outlets AllSides rates Lean Left, such as The New York Times or The Washington Post. AllSides Media Bias Ratings are not determined relative to other outlets, but a small amount of consideration is given to the rest of the media landscape, particularly when assessing issues such as bias by omission — which stories an outlet is choosing to cover or not to cover.
Overall, the AllSides team agreed that NPR's online headlines do not insert bias and largely present the facts. NPR online news does not employ sensationalism or overt bias in either direction, and its reporting is mostly in a factual, objective style, not an interpretive style. Some team members noted NPR does not always choose to highlight good-faith conservative viewpoints, choosing to omit nuanced criticism and comments by those on the Right.
In alignment with past editorial reviews, such as the review AllSides conducted in Feb. 2019 (details below), the team found NPR online news does not focus coverage on hot-button topics favored by either side. For example, while many right-wing media outlets frequently focus on abortion, the Second Amendment, and free speech, and left-wing media outlets focus on healthcare, economic inequality, and racism, NPR online news does not favor or even routinely cover such controversial issues. NPR online news coverage focuses more on congressional and representative politics, elections, and world news.
AllSides frequently receives feedback about the NPR online news media bias rating. We believe most of this feedback is due to confusion from folks who believe we are rating NPR radio content, but we will continue to conduct research on this outlet.
About NPR's Audience
A 2014 Pew Research study, "Where News Audiences Fit on the Political Spectrum," found that "the clear majority of [NPR's] audience (67%) is left-of-center, and it is a particularly popular source for consistent liberals, who make up 41% of its audience (compared with 16% of all respondents)." It's important to note that Pew's assessment of NPR's audience may have included those who also listen to its radio content and are not just consumers of its online news. As previously noted, this AllSides Media Bias Rating for NPR refers to its online news content only; we rate the bias of NPR's opinion content separately.
Feb. 2019 Editorial Review: NPR Has a Center Bias, Close to Lean Left
After releasing version 1 of the AllSides Media Bias Chart™, we received a lot of feedback from people who disagreed that NPR should be rated Center (though the feedback could have been people who mistakenly thought we were rating NPR's radio content). On February 19, 2019, our team conducted an Editorial Review of NPR online news. We determined that NPR online news maintained a Center media bias rating. There was perhaps a very slight left lean in NPR online news coverage overall.
The AllSides team, made up of people from all over the political bias spectrum, unanimously determined that NPR online news maintained a Center media bias. At the time, we found NPR online news did not predictably show coverage favoring left or right perspectives, and generally reported in a way that fairly showcased the perspectives of both the Left and the Right. NPR online news did not use emotionally charged or polarizing language, and maintained a relatively fair representation of issues. We found its reporting to be fact-based and not leaning left or right.
Our team noted that NPR did not give lots of coverage to current hot-button issues frequently seen in coverage on the Right — such as free speech, abortion, or the Second Amendment — and in that same vein, did not give lots of coverage to hot-button issues often covered by the Left — economic inequality, climate change, or social justice initiatives. Instead, it seemed to cover issues that were of equal concern to both sides, such as healthcare, immigration, and representative politics, such as Congress and election coverage.
Our team noted that NPR did a good job of ensuring Opinion pieces were not interspersed with News pieces.
Dec. 2017: Editorial Review and Blind Bias Survey; AllSides Creates Separate Media Bias Ratings for NPR and NPR Editorial/Opinion
The AllSides NPR online news media bias rating had historically been Center, but data collected in surveys leading up to Dec. 2017 showed that NPR may slowly be inching farther Left. Because AllSides users had also expressed this belief through voting, AllSides decided to take a closer look.
In Dec. 2017, AllSides engaged in two reviews for NPR (learn more about how AllSides rates media bias). The first, a Blind Bias Survey, returned a Lean Left bias rating. Two previous blind surveys had resulted in Center ratings for NPR's online news media bias both times, though slightly towards Lean Left.
We followed up with an Editorial Review, in which the AllSides team looked at a composite of past research, media bias ratings and data, while also looking at NPR's full news coverage of that day. Considering that recent data had shown a slight move towards Lean Left, we examined both hard news pieces and op-eds (opinions pieces and editorials).
AllSides found that NPR News maintained a Center media bias, as it consistently showcased multiple sides of each story and refrained from biased language and images in its news articles. Its editorials, however, were slightly biased towards the Left.
With this in mind, AllSides separated NPR into two source pages: we created a new, separate page for NPR Opinion/Editorial. This bias rating applies to all online op-eds, analysis and fact checking content. The page you are currently viewing, NPR Online News, now represents a media bias rating for NPR's online news content only.
AllSides Media Bias Ratings for NPR Prior to 2017
A 2005 UCLA study rated NPR’s Morning Edition (not based on the news section of the website) as having a Lean Left media bias, while the AllSides Media Bias Rating™ (based on the news section of the website) for NPR remained Center. A majority of over 5,000 community members agreed with the Center rating, but in a follow-up survey of 118 members who disagreed, NPR received an average bias score of 72.5, well within the range of a Lean Left media bias. An October 2013 AllSides Blind Survey rated NPR as Center by a narrow margin.
NPR is a multimedia news organization and radio program producer that serves as a national syndicator to a network of 950 public radio stations in the United States. Its mission is to work with member stations to create a more informed public, one challenged and invigorated by a deeper understanding and appreciation of events, ideas and cultures. NPR's flagships are two drive time news broadcasts, Morning Edition and the afternoon All Things Considered; both are carried by most NPR member stations, and are two of the most popular radio programs in the country.
NPR aims to be independent by generating revenue from fees it charges its member stations, as well as grants from foundations, contributions and sponsorships.
Funding, Financing and Ownership
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. National Public Radio is an American privately and publicly funded non-profit media organization. NPR relies upon corporate sponsorships, sustaining members and station and fees for revenue. John Lansing is the President and CEO of NPR. Financing and ownership information last updated February 8, 2020