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’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, NPR scored an average Factual Grade of 63.2%. This is just above the average of 61.9% for all 240 news sources that we analyzed and places it in the 51st percentile of our dataset.

Like any news source, scores for articles from NPR varied widely based on factors like author expertise and cited evidence. For example, some scored above 90%, while others scored below 50%.

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How Opinionated Is NPR?

The Factual also 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.

NPR had an average Writing Tone score of 0.69, placing it in the 69th percentile in our dataset. This suggests that articles from NPR are often written in a neutral tone, meaning they are written to convey information rather than elicit an emotional response. The average Writing Tone score for the entire dataset was 0.56.

How Biased Is NPR?

Overall, The Factual assigns NPR 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.

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.”

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How to Mitigate Bias

News articles are bound to 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, 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.

Article updated on December 12, 2021 to reflect new data.

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.