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The staggering overrepresentation of white, conservative men on Sunday political shows

Sunday morning political talk shows can determine the week's agenda — and that agenda is overwhelmingly defined by the white, conservative men who appear on those shows much more often than other groups.


new report by Media Matters looked at the demographics of guest appearances on five major Sunday morning political talk shows in 2015: ABC's This Week With George Stephanopoulos, CBS's Face the Nation with John Dickerson, Fox's Fox News Sunday With Chris Wallace, NBC's Meet the Press With Chuck Todd, and CNN's State of the Union With Jake Tapper.

The majority of the guests were white men. And despite stereotypes about the "liberal media," Sunday shows featured more conservative guests than liberal ones.

There were way more white male guests than any other group

White men were a majority of the guests on all five programs and dominated other demographic groups, even though they make up just 31 percent of the general population.

white men vs. everyone else (Media Matters)

Men vastly outnumbered women on all five shows, and white people were disproportionately represented compared with people of color. Between two-thirds and three-quarters of guests were men, and at least three-quarters were white.

gender sunday shows (Media Matters)
Ethnicity on Sunday shows (Media Matters)

Among elected officials and members of presidential administrations, men were even more dominant — they made up between 83 and 93 percent of the five shows' government guests.

Women journalists fared a little better than women elected officials. State of the Union hosted roughly equal numbers of male and female journalists, and Meet the Press featured 53 percent men and 47 percent women among its journalist guests. But Fox News Sunday, Face the Nation, and This Week all came closer to a split of two-thirds men, one-third women.

Conservative ideology was also dominant

Fox News Sunday unsurprisingly favored guests on the political right, but it wasn't alone in this regard. All five shows had more conservative guests overall than liberal or progressive ones.

Ideology on Sunday shows (Media Matters)

Conservative or Republican whites were the most represented group among both journalists and government officials.

Diversity hasn't improved much since 2013, and the ideological gulf has widened

Media Matters has analyzed the diversity of Sunday morning talk shows every year since 2013. That's not much time to see any real long-term trends, but it's worth noting that the numbers have barely budged over the three years the survey has been conducted.

Women made up 27 percent of guests in 2015, compared with 25 percent in both 2013 and 2014. People of color made up 19 percent of guests in 2013, 20 percent in 2014, and 22 percent in 2015.

But the ideological balance has actually shifted to the right since 2013, with fewer progressives and more conservatives. It seems possible that the rise in 2015 was because of the contentious and crowded Republican primary, but conservatives have still outnumbered progressives every year.

Ideology since 2013 (Media Matters)

It's not just the Sunday shows

Media Matters has found similarly poor numbers on gender and racial diversity for evening cable news programs, and found that women are invited much less often than men to comment on foreign policy.

Some advocates are now publishing weekly gender diversity statistics to try to encourage several major cable news programs to invite more women to comment on the election.

It's sadly unsurprising that white men dominate televised political commentary; it's obvious most times you turn on your TV. The dominance of conservative ideology is less obvious, and perhaps more surprising. But both trends are worth noticing and correcting.

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