Our nation continues to be ideologically center-right, and Americans are not buying the view advanced in the media that the president has ideologically moved toward the center. The center-right country also sees the news media in the same vein as the president — as liberal.
Americans also say that media coverage of former Alaska governor and GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin and the Tea Party lacks fairness and objectivity.
These are the key findings from the latest IBD/TIPP poll of 915 Americans completed Feb. 5. IBD/TIPP asked respondents to rate themselves ideologically on a 10-point scale where 1 means Very Liberal and 10 means Very Conservative.
Respondents also rated the news media and President Obama on the same 10-point ideology scale.
Forty-two percent of respondents in the poll identified themselves as conservative, 37% as moderate, and 19% as liberal. Nearly one-half (49%) see the media as liberal, 30% moderate, and 15% conservative.
The average score respondents gave themselves is 6.1 vs. the average score of 4.1 for the media. The average ideology gap between Americans and the media was 2.0.
Despite the chatter in the commentariat about Obama's moving ideologically toward the center after the midterm elections, Americans continue to see him well-entrenched on the left. Fifty-six percent now say he is liberal, 24% moderate and 15% conservative, with an average of 4.0. Prior to the elections in October, 59% said he was liberal, 25% moderate and 12% conservative, with an average of 3.7.
When we compare the ratings given by each respondent for media and themselves, our analysis shows that 57% gave themselves a rating to the right of their rating for media, 25% gave themselves a rating to the left of the media and 12% gave themselves and media the same rating.
Interestingly, a comparison of Obama ratings and self-ratings show a similar pattern. Fifty-five percent are right of Obama, 24% are left of Obama, and 16% gave themselves and Obama the same rating.
The media bias is obvious to Americans on two fronts: Sarah Palin and the Tea Party.
Though media treatment of Palin historically has been harsh all along, it has hit new lows of late. Screenwriter and producer Aaron Sorkin ("A Few Good Men," "The West Wing," "The Social Network") wrote a column in the Huffington Post calling her a "witless bully" and a "phony pioneer girl."
MSNBC's Chris Matthews at MSNBC ridiculed her as talking "like a cuckoo clock. In fact, I think when she gets that 'Sarah Palin' name patented, that's what she should sell — cuckoo clocks with her coming out every hour or half-hour."
Most Americans (55%), however, think media coverage of Palin has not been fair and objective.
Only 37% say it's been fair. That most Republicans (70%) see bias is no surprise, but a majority of independents (56%) agree.
Americans feel similar about the media's handling of the Tea Party. Though the Tea Party helped Republicans retake the House, the media still refuse to recognize it and instead portray it as a fringe movement. Tea Party leaders such as conservative Rep. Michele Bachmann regularly get harsh criticisms and ridicule from the media. Matthews called the Minnesota Republican a "balloon head" on his television show.
The Tea Party continues to be a favorite media target. Most Americans, however, recognize the media bias against the movement. Forty-six percent say the media have not been fair to the Tea party, while 41% think they have been fair.
Both Republicans (by a 63% to 31% margin) and independents (46% to 38%) believe the media's portrayal of the movement lacks fairness and objectivity. Only Democrats think the media has been fair (53% to 34%).
Half of Americans have a favorable view of the Tea Party, with 21% giving moderately favorable ratings and 29% giving highly favorable ratings. Thirty-eight percent did not have a favorable view. Both Republicans (79%) and independents (57%) give a rating of 5 or more on a 10-point scale.
Among those who have a favorable view of the movement, nearly one-half (49%) say they would consider joining the movement or attend a rally or event.
In summary, Americans do not believe President Obama has moved to the center, one of the factors behind the polarization in the country is the media's liberal ideology, and Americans believe Sarah Palin and the Tea Party are two of the casualties of that ideology.
• Mayur is president of TechnoMetrica Market Intelligence, which directs the IBD/TIPP Poll that was the most accurate in the last two presidential elections.