Left vs Right Wing News: A Guide
Updated: Oct 19, 2021
In conversation about politics and current affairs, we often hear the terms ‘left wing’ and ‘right wing’, which are loosely used to describe different political opinions. Whilst no news platforms are entirely unbiased, some fall far left or right on the political spectrum based on the type of news they cover and what their general values are.
So, what is meant by left and right wing news? What do these platforms stand for? And how do you establish whether a news platform is left or right wing?
This guide will answer these questions by looking at how left and right wing news are defined, which principles they encompass, examples of such outlets in the United States and the United Kingdom, before revealing how to spot left vs right wing biases when reading about current affairs.
What is meant by left and right wing news?
The Oxford Dictionary defines left wing as the ‘liberal, socialist, or radical’ side of a political party or system. Another word often used in the place of left wing is ‘progressive’. Liberal and socialist left wing political platforms generally stand for egalitarianism, meaning equal rights for everyone. The way to achieve this goal is seen with a big government, welfare systems, higher taxes, and other ways of social spending. Radical left wing platforms are more extreme and stand for communist and/or anarchist ideas, which include opposition to private ownership and class divisions, and support of complete wealth equality.
In contrast, right wing can be defined as ‘conservative or reactionary’. Conservative right wing platforms prefer small government and a free-market economy with little social spending. In other words, there is little government interference in the economy to favour big businesses. They also promote traditional values. Reactionary right wing platforms are more extreme, opposing any form of change, tending to be against immigration, abortion, and other social policies.
Left wing news tends to support and be biased towards political parties and groups that stand for progressive and/or radical ideas such as collectivist and community values. Right wing news is biased towards parties and groups that promote conservative and/or reactionary ideas, including individualistic and traditional family-oriented values. These partisan platforms have contributed to polarising politics, which in turn has challenged public trust in the media.
Examples of left wing platforms
When looking at examples of left- and right wing news platforms, it is important to note that these platforms do not necessarily describe themselves as such. Whilst some openly admit to their biases, others falsely claim to be objective or do not address their biases at all. While there is no strict categorisation of what is considered left and right wing news, the following platforms are by and large seen as falling into these categories.
News platforms that are considered to be left wing in the US include MSNBC and The Slate. MSNBC is a network that leans towards the Democratic Party in the US. Around half of its audience identifies as liberal or ideologically left of the centre. In the 2008 election, it was accused of being Pro-Obama, as coverage of Democrats was more positive, whilst that of Republicans was negative. The Slate, another left wing news platform, is a progressive magazine and skews left on the media bias spectrum, not often covering opposing perspectives at all. Therefore, news platforms can be biased not just through having a positive/negative tone but also through what they chose to cover in the first place.
In the UK, the Daily Mirror and the Morning Star are examples of left wing news. According to a 2017 YouGov survey, the Mirror was considered to be left wing to the majority of Britons. It has supported the Labour party in every election since 1945. The Morning Star is a self-proclaimed socialist platform and was the newspaper of the UK’s Communist Party. Trade union and social issues make up the majority of their content.
Examples of right wing platforms
When looking at examples of right wing news, Fox News stands out as one of the most influential in the United States. According to a Pew Research Center Study, 47% of consistently conservative Americans consider Fox News their main source of news. A 2019 survey found a correlation between Fox News consumers and opinions towards Trump, with 71% of dedicated viewers rating him ‘very warmly’. Newsmax and Breitbart are also conservative right wing platforms whose viewers are mostly Republican and even further on the right. All have consistently supported Republicans and avidly stood behind Donald Trump, denying the 2020 election outcome.
In the UK, examples of platforms considered right wing include The Daily Mail, The Daily Express, and The Sun. According to the 2017 YouGov survey, 44% of Britons consider The Daily Mail ‘very right wing’ and 81% describe it as right wing in some shape or form. They have supported the Conservative Party, and also promoted the UK Independence Party (UKIP) and Brexit. The Daily Express has similarly been ranked as right wing given its support for the Conservative Party and UKIP. Both have been involved in controversies involving discriminatory content.
A 2021 study found that the Euroscepticism of right wing tabloids might have contributed to Brexit, as the Liverpool boycott of the The Sun for its reporting on the Hillsborough Disaster showed a positive shift in attitude towards the EU, leading to a Remain vote in a formerly anti-EU region of the UK. This demonstrates the real impact that media biases can have on the outcome of political decisions.
To find out more about the impact of right-wing media on the Brexit result, read our article.
How to spot left and right wing news
When reading the news, it is important to be aware of your sources and the biases behind them. Both left and right wing news may include content that is not necessarily wrong or untruthful, but rather is seen through a certain lens, thereby distorting the full picture. You can identify the biases at play, by looking out for certain clues whilst reading the news.
FAIR, a media watch group, lists detailed questions to ask yourself whilst reading the news:
Who are the sources?
Is there a lack of diversity?
From whose point of view is the news reported?
Are there double standards?
Do stereotypes skew coverage?
What are the unchallenged assumptions?
Is the language loaded? (E.g., is the term illegal immigrant or asylum seeker used?)
Is there a lack of context?
Do the headlines and stories match?
Are stories on important issues featured prominently?
Other important questions to consider include:
Where is the information I am reading coming from?
Have I compared this information with other sources?
Is there only one side to the story / is only one side represented?
Is the news confirming my views or challenging them? If so, what does this say about my sources?
Is the content being sensationalised (presented in a dramatic/emotional way to attract attention, without necessarily being accurate) and if so, how is it trying to affect me?
The Ad Fontes media bias chart also offers a visual chart and individual evaluation of major news sources in the US, including some UK platforms, which can be found on https://www.adfontesmedia.com/ .
This chart by YouGov is also a useful resource:
For more articles and resources on media bias, head to our dedicated Role of the Media section.
Edited by Evie Townend