Subtle Biases

Among the many places I get political news and information is the new York Time Political blog, The Caucus. Unique among those sources, The Caucus displays a tag cloud which shows the tags they use on their posts with the tags displayed in a font size proportional to how often the tag is used.

The Caucus Tags

It is no surprise that 2008 is the largest tag (most common), but Hillary always seemed to be disproportionally large compared to other candidates. I always dismissed that as a result of the fact that her full name is spelled out and thus takes more space. After seeing the cloud so many times I finally got curious to see how much the various tags were really used. The result revealed an unspoken bias at the blog.

The top two presidential candidates for the Democrats have as many stories as the top 3 presidential candidates for the Republicans (548 in each case). John Edwards is tagged 146 times for the Democrats as well. Following to lower tier candidates the coverage of Democrats makes further gains despite the fact that there are more Republican candidates. Interestingly even President Bush receives fewer tags than either Hillary or Barak. The most telling statistic for me however was the fact that there were 62 posts carrying the tag “CONSERVATIVES” (yes, all caps) and not a single post with a tag for liberals (all caps or otherwise). I guess the reader can decide if that is because they don’t cover liberal stories, or if it is because they don’t consider anything to be liberal.

I am not complaining that there is a bias here. My feeling is that every information source is biased, even good, scientific data , but it is better once the bias is recognized publicly. If anyone wants to see the raw data I used they can download it – I have added some tags for sorting between candidates, parties, issues etc. – or they can go to The Caucus and view the page source to get up-to-date data.

About David

David is the father of 8 extremely organized children (4 girls / 4 boys) who is constantly seeking answers to tough questions related to parenting, education and politics while moonlighting for 40 hours each week as a technology professional. He also enjoys cooking, gardening, and sports.
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