NPR, or National Public Radio, is one of the most prolific news sources in the U.S., with over 1,000 public radio stations across the nation and a very popular news website. However, at times NPR has been accused of having a liberal bias. So, how reliable is NPR and how biased is it?

How Factual Is NPR?

The Factual analyzed the (near) total article output of 32 major news sources between January 1, 2020 and May 18, 2021, totaling more than 785,000 articles. In total, each of the included news sources published at least 5,000 articles during the time period, or at least 10 articles per day. 

Within this dataset, NPR.org scored an average Factual Grade of 67.2% across 14,523 articles, above the 62.0% average for articles across the entire dataset. As a result, That NPR scores in the 72nd percentile for scores in the dataset.

The quality of individual articles, as rated by The Factual’s credibility algorithm, varies significantly for each source, demonstrating the variation in author expertise, writing tone, and provided evidence. For instance, some NPR articles scored 90% or above, while others scored below 50%. 

A high grade suggests an article is informative, objective, and written by a topical expert. A low grade means many of these elements were not present or could not be verified. Such articles may still have merit but warrant greater scrutiny. To learn more, visit our How It Works page.

How Biased Is NPR?

Overall, The Factual categorizes NPR as having a “Moderate Left” bias. This is in line with industry classifications, which generally assign it minimal to moderate bias ratings. 

AllSides, a company that tracks the bias of media organizations, rates NPR as having a “Center” bias. Meanwhile, Media Bias/Fact Check gives NPR a “Center-Left” rating, as well as credit for highly factual reporting. 

NPR tracks complaints of bias and reports receiving roughly equal numbers of complaints for being too liberal and too conservative. However, they do not claim the analysis to be systematic. 

Conservative sources argue NPR has a liberal bias, as demonstrated by its decision to permit its reporters to “participate in activities that advocate for ‘the freedom and dignity of human beings’ on both social media and in real life.” Others have labeled it a “Democrat Party propaganda operation” and continuously questioned the organization’s continued federal funding, though that accounts for only 1% of NPR’s budget.

That said, every news article is likely to have some bias because all authors have some frame of reference within which they describe a story. Political bias ratings are useful in understanding how this framing may impact articles. However, more useful to know is whether an article is well researched and objective. This is what The Factual Grade ascertains. Reading several highly rated articles across the political spectrum on a topic helps counter the framing bias of any news source or story.

How Many People Does NPR Reach?

Despite declining radio listenership, NPR’s reach continues to expand through digital content, reaching an average of 57 million people per week, including 19 million through NPR.org.

Who Funds NPR?

NPR receives funding from a range of sources. According to Influence Watch, an online monitor of public policy influence, in 2017, the media outlet “earned 38% of its revenue from individual contributions; 19% from corporate sponsorship and licensing; 10% from foundation donations; 10% from university licensing and donations; 8% from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting; and 4% from federal, state, and local governments via member stations.”

How to Mitigate Bias

Of course, having an overall liberal bias does not disqualify NPR from producing factual news. Most news articles have some bias because all authors have some frame of reference within which they describe a story. Political bias ratings are useful in understanding this framing. However, it can be more useful to know how factual an article is based on the cited evidence and whether the tone of writing is objective or opinionated. This is what The Factual Grade ascertains. Reading several highly rated articles across the political spectrum, from highly credible liberal and conservative sources, helps counter the framing bias of any news source or story.


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Published by Phillip Meylan

Phillip is a writer, researcher, and editor. He is a contributor to FP Analytics, Foreign Policy's research and advisory division, and an adjuct fellow with the Center for Strategic and International Studies. During Covid-19, he has spent time enjoying the great outdoors, reading, and watching soccer.