Politico has risen from upstart to a key news source in Washington, recently selling for $1 billion. The media outlet seeks to be the “dominant source for news on politics and policy,” using “reliable information, nonpartisan journalism and real-time tools [to] create, inform and engage a global citizenry.” Does it deliver on this mission of being factual and unbiased?

How Factual Is Politico?

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, Politico scored an average Factual Grade of 64.8%. This is slightly above the average of 61.9% for all 240 news sources that we analyzed. This places Politico in the 61st percentile of our dataset.

Politico has many articles that are consistent in terms of sourcing, writing tone, and author expertise. However, some articles often lack cited evidence or use heavily opinionated language, particularly when covering politics, leading to lower overall scores.

Like any news source, scores for articles from Politico varied widely based on factors like cited evidence and writing tone. For example, some scored nearly 90%, while others scored below 50%.

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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.

Politico had an average score of 0.73, placing it in the 82nd percentile in our dataset. This is far above the average of 0.56 for the entire dataset. This suggests that articles from Politico are often more neutral in tone.

What Is Politico's Political Bias?

Together, assessments from media bias organizations indicate that Politico has a “Moderate Left” bias. 

AllSides rates Politico as having a “Lean Left” bias, based on survey data and over 52,417 ratings from the community. According to an AllSides survey of 2,285 people in 2020, “The average rating for Politico from each bias group — people who identified themselves as Left, Lean Left, Center, Lean Right, or Right — was also Lean Left.” AllSides previously assigned Politico a “Center” rating, but this was adjusted to “Lean Left”  in 2018 based on new data.

Meanwhile, Media Bias/Fact Check gives Politico a “Left-Center” rating, as well as a “High” rating for factual reporting. “Left-Center” sources “often publish factual information that utilizes loaded words to favor liberal causes,” according to Media Bias/Fact Check. They further acknowledge accusations against Politico of being both too liberal and too conservative, but also highlight it’s majority-liberal audience and “a more left-leaning bias in both story selection and editorial positions.”

Past controversies can also be a good indicator of the level of bias present at a publisher. In January 2021, Politico received backlash for publishing a piece by conservative commentary Ben Shapiro. Readers and staff widely disliked the move, as evidenced by a Politico letter signed by more than 100 staffers, but the editorial team stuck with their decision, stating  “We’re not going to back away from having published something because some people think it was a mistake to do so.”

Who Owns Politico?

Politico began as a small operation in 2007 with the help of founder Robert Allbritton, one of America’s “lesser-known media moguls.” However, Axel Springer, Europe’s largest publishing house, purchased Politico in its entirety in August 2021. Axel Springer owns numerous other media outlets, including Business Insider and major German newspapers such as Die Welt and Bild. Axel Springer’s potential influence on bias is difficult to assess. The acquisition is very recent and it owns both liberal and conservative publications. 

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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.