Prior studies have reported a right-leaning bias in the media’s reporting of how the public thinks of political issues, raising the question: Why, and to what extent, is this the case? One reason in particular has been discussed in this regard: Journalists judge public opinion to be more right leaning than it actually is (Beckers et al. 2021; Lewis et al. 2004). This paper therefore studies to what extent journalists misjudge audience opinion. The analyses are based on large-scale representative surveys of journalists (1993/2005) and the voting-age population (1994/2005) in Germany. Results show that German journalists (mis-)judge audience opinion to be more right-leaning than the audience sees itself. The results also show that journalists judge audience opinion to be to the right of their own stances, and that journalists in federal states with a right-leaning government and in West Germany judge audience opinion to be even further to the right. Audience feedback does not push journalists’ judgements of their audience towards the right, however. These results are discussed vis-à-vis research showing that there is a consistent bias in the depiction of opinions expressed by ordinary citizens, and research documenting that political elites overestimate public support for right-wing policies.
- opinion perception
- public opinion