Foreign Policy was established in 1970 by Samuel P. Huntington, a renowned political theorist and academic. Huntington wanted to provide alternative coverage outside of Washington’s “entrenched orthodoxies” during the Vietnam War. At the time, he characterized the paper as “serious but not scholarly, lively but not glib.” Since then, it has earned the respect of journalists and statesmen alike for its focus on current events, global affairs, and domestic and international policy, including six National Magazine Awards. In 2016, it broke with tradition by endorsing a presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton, which to some signaled a liberal bias. So, how reliable is Foreign Policy as a news source and how biased is its content? 

How Factual Is Foreign Policy

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, Foreign Policy scored an average Factual Grade of 70.6%. This is significantly above the 61.9% average for all 245 news sources that we analyzed and puts Foreign Policy in the 87th percentile of our dataset.

Foreign Policy high scores can be attributed to thorough sourcing of information and the high topical expertise of the site’s authors. Articles on the site commonly incorporate numerous links to a diverse range of external sources, which The Factual’s algorithm uses as evidence of in-depth, balanced sourcing. Likewise, when authors write repeatedly for the same source on the same subject, the algorithm sees relevant topical expertise, leading to higher scores. However, articles from the site, particularly in the “Argument” section, tend to include moderately biased language, which lowers some of the site’s scores overall.

Like any news source, scores for articles from Foreign Policy varied widely. For example, some scored above 90%, while others scored below 50%.

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How Opinionated Is Foreign Policy ?

The Factual measures how opinionated an article is using a sophisticated natural language processing algorithm, producing a score we call 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.

Foreign Policy had an average score of 0.59, placing it in the 45th percentile in our dataset. This suggests that articles from Foreign Policy are moderately opinionated, meaning they are likely to include some emotionally loaded or biased language. Partially, this can be attributed to the magazine’s tendency to showcase argumentative or opinion pieces about foreign policy issues, such as articles related to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine with headlines like “‘Winging It’: Russia Is Getting Its Generals Killed on the Front Lines.”

What Is Foreign Policy ’s Political Bias?  

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

AllSides assigns a “Center” bias to Foreign Policy based on independent research and 829 community ratings, although it acknowledges this as an initial rating. AllSides notes the publication clearly differentiates between opinion and straight news coverage, differentiating the two categories as “Report” and “Argument.” They also highlight that the publication at times exhibits some left-leaning bias, though overall its editorializing “doesn't represent a clear Left or Right bias.” In a few articles, such as “​​Trump’s Weak Sanctions May Only Help Erdogan,” AllSides argues that the site exhibits mild editorializing and bias against Trump, including in language such as “Trump slapped Turkey’s wrist on Monday.”

MBFC places Foreign Policy in its centrist category “Least Biased” based on “balanced reporting with a very slight lean right.” It notes a tendency to occasionally publish stories that utilize emotionally loaded headlines like “Bernie Sanders Still Doesn’t Pass the Commander-in-Chief Test” and this “Trump Doesn’t Want to Play Peacemaker.” However, MBFC gives the site high scores for factual reporting, proper sourcing, and a clean fact-check record. 

Who Owns Foreign Policy?

Foreign Policy is published by FP Group, which is owned by Graham Holdings Company.  It is part of a large portfolio of digital news publishers including Slate and Graham Media Group, a group of seven television companies. The Graham Holdings Company also owned the Washington Post before it was sold to Jeff Bezos for $250 million in 2013. In addition, Graham Holdings currently owns a digital marketing agency and Kaplan, a higher education company.

As of 2020, FP Group employed 48 full-time staff, 2 part-time staff, and a large number of contract workers. Foreign Policy distributes 34,000 print magazines and boasts 1 million digital subscribers. In 2021, it had net revenue of $22 million, a majority of which is derived from annual subscription fees and advertising.

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Why Does It Matter?

All news articles have 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, from cited evidence to author expertise, to the 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.

Published by Zain Bali

Zain is a researcher, writer, and marketer at The Factual. He is interested in policy, mass media, and politics. Before joining The Factual, he earned a B.S. in public health from Ohio State University. He has worked as a social media manager for a healthcare advocacy group and food science researcher.