The Pew Research Center is a non-profit think tank based in Washington, D.C. Seeing fact-based information as “the fuel democracies run on,” the group works with the data trends that shape our modern world. They conduct public opinion polling, demographic research, phone canvassing, media content analysis, and other data-related social science research on a variety of topics, ranging from religion to immigration and everything in between. The group has no party affiliation and is often a primary source of information for other websites that untangle bias such as Snopes and Media Bias/Fact Check. So, is Pew Research biased?

How Factual Is Pew Research? 

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. These metrics combine to produce a single percentage score — what we call a Factual Grade — which indicates the overall quality of an article. (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, Pew Research Center scored an average Factual Grade of 74.6%. This is well above the average of 61.9% for all 245 news sources that we analyzed. This places Pew in the 95th percentile of our dataset. 

These high scores are indicative of Pew’s dedication to using data and their consistent, balanced approach to covering topics. (For example, their articles generally contain a description of their methodology.) Pew swears to its non-partisanship, using neutral wording and exploring data relevant to both left- and right-leaning concerns. Their research articles frequently use extensive sources to set up and engage with major news topics.

Like any news source, scores for articles from the Pew Research varied widely based on our metrics. For example, some scored above 90%, while others scored below 60%.

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How Opinionated Is Pew Research? 

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.

Pew Research Center had an average Writing Tone score of 0.72, placing it in the 80th percentile in our dataset. This suggests that articles from Pew largely use neutral, objective language. This is also well above the 0.56 average for all 245 sources in the dataset.

What Is Pew Research’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 (MBFC). Based on this data, The Factual assigns Pew a “Center” bias. 

MBFC recognizes Pew’s lack of party affiliation, giving them a “Least Biased” rating. MBFC also mentions the site’s wide range of statistical coverage and that it refrains from using any kind of emotionally biased wording or headlines. Likewise, Pew Research has never failed a fact-check and always gives a thorough explanation of its methodology for each study. This earns it a “Very High” score for factual rating—the highest possible by MBFC’s metrics. 

AllSides classifies Pew as “Center” and assigns a high confidence level in this classification. Ratings from 3,986 members of the AllSides community also confirm this classification. However, compared to other ratings from AllSides, they provide very little information to confirm their assessment. This is likely indicative of how uncontroversial this categorization is.

Who Owns Pew Research? 

The Pew Research Center is a subsidiary of Pew Charitable Trusts, a non-profit, non-advocacy organization founded by the children of Joseph N. Pew, founder of the Sunset Oil Company. The trust is held in commitment to “improving public policy by conducting rigorous analysis, linking diverse interests to pursue common cause.” The trust eventually became the primary sponsor for the Times Mirror Center for the People & Press in 1996 (which was subsequently renamed) and has maintained its hold on the company ever since. 

The Pew Charitable Trusts has backed several organizations across party lines over the years, initially involving itself in cancer research, the American Red Cross, and working to assist historically black colleges. Since its foundation, the trust is also known to have benefited right-wing groups such as the John Birch Society, the American Liberty League, and the American Enterprise Institute, yet has also provided assistance to the more left-leaning Brookings Institute. Currently, aside from its ownership of the Pew Research Center, the organization is involved in several other non-profit causes, such as one initiative to preserve marine protected areas in the Caribbean. 

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Dealing with Bias in the News

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.

Published by Gal Barak

Gal is a writer and researcher. He graduated from the University of Denver with a B.A. in Philosophy and a minor in English. Before the Factual, Gal has interned as a journalist and taken on various roles at different non-profits.