As one of the biggest names in news, ABC News is often classified as “mainstream media” and therefore has been the subject of some scrutiny in recent years. The news organization has substantial resources, an extensive network of reporters and journalists, and a clear commitment to journalistic principles, but it has also been accused of having a liberal bias. So, how reliable and biased is ABC News?

Note: This article is specific to online content from ABC News, not its television or other media presence.

How Factual Is ABC News?

The Factual’s news rating algorithm analyzes more than 10,000 articles a day along four metrics: author expertise, publication history, writing tone, and cited sources and quotes. (See our How It Works page to learn more.) For this study, we analyzed 1,000 articles each from 245 major news sources.

Over a dataset of 1,000 articles, ABC News scored an average Factual Grade of 72.8%. This is well above the average of 61.9% for all 245 news sources that we analyzed. This places ABC News in the 92nd percentile of our dataset and in the top 20 sources. It is also higher than competitors such as CNBC (71.5%), NBC News (68.1%), and CBS News (62.7%).

ABC News scores well due to a number of factors, including its authors, sourcing, and neutral reporting. ABC has a deep bench of experienced reporters who cover specific beats such as healthcare, defense, or education. Articles from the site incorporate extensive evidence into their news stories — such as direct quotes and links to external articles — to back up claims. Finally, ABC’s reporting is largely from a neutral perspective and tends to eschew sensational headlines and language.

Like any news source, scores for ABC News varied widely based on factors like author expertise and cited evidence. For example, some scored above 90%, while others scored below 60%.

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How Opinionated Is ABC News?

The Factual measures how opinionated an article is using a sophisticated natural language processing algorithm, producing a score called the Writing Tone. For this metric, the algorithm looks for signs of subjective commentary (e.g., first person pronouns, unnecessary adverbs), as well as the emotional nature of selected words, and sees how prevalent they are for a given length of text. Text which is less opinionated gets higher ratings, with “0” being the most opinionated and “1” being the most neutral.

ABC News had an average Writing Tone score of 0.82, placing it in the 98th percentile in our dataset. This suggests that articles from the site tend to use minimally biased language. In fact, this is the sixth highest Writing Tone score that we measured.

What Is the Political Bias of ABC News?

The Factual classifies news sites by political bias as either Left, Moderate Left, Center, Moderate Right, or Right. This classification is derived from third-party assessments from media bias organizations such as AllSides and Media Bias/Fact Check (MBFC). Based on this data, The Factual assigns ABC News a “Moderate Left” bias. 

AllSides assigns ABC News a “Lean Left” classification based on blind surveys, third-party analysis, independent research, and 56,248 community ratings. The most recent analysis, a 2021 blind survey, found that 1,147 people across the political spectrum rated ABC News as “Lean Left” on average. Other research, such as a cited 2014 Pew Research study, reinforces this assessment. The Pew study found that 37% of the site’s audience identifies as left-of-center or left and 41% identifies as mixed or center. 

MBFC classifies ABC News as having “Left-Center” bias due to “story selection and word choices that moderately favor the left.” The site also receives a “High” score for factual reporting based on proper sourcing and very few fact-checking issues. MBFC supports this classification by providing evidence of biased headlines, such as “Trump: No regrets for praising Greg Gianforte for body-slamming reporter.

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Who Owns ABC News?

ABC News is owned by Walt Disney Television and ultimately the Walt Disney Company. The close association between ABC's online and television content makes it difficult to characterize how this ownership might play a role. Following a recent controversy, Disney CEO Bob Chapek stated: “I don't really see Disney as characterizing itself as left leaning or right leaning, (but) instead standing for values, values that are universal, values of respect, values of decency, values of integrity and values of inclusion.” Elsewhere, Disney recently joined a growing list of companies that agreed not to make campaign contributions to politicians who voted against certifying the results of the 2020 presidential election. 

Why Does It Matter?

News articles always have some bias because all authors have some frame of reference within which they describe a story. Political bias ratings are helpful in understanding this framing. However, it can be more beneficial to know how factual an article is based on quantifiable metrics that can be seen across the media ecosystem, such as cited evidence, author expertise, and writing tone. This is what The Factual ascertains. 

Reading several, highly rated articles from across the political spectrum helps counter the bias of any news source or story. To have the day’s most factual news stories delivered to your inbox every morning, subscribe to our daily newsletter.

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Published by Phillip Meylan

Phillip is a writer, researcher, and editor. At The Factual, he leads research efforts that utilize the company's ever growing data on the media ecosystem. He is also a contributor to FP Analytics, Foreign Policy's research and advisory division, and an adjunct fellow with the Center for Strategic and International Studies.