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 analyzed 785,000 news articles from 32 major news sources between January 1, 2020 and May 18, 2021. To be included for consideration, the news source must have published at least 5,000 articles over the time period, or at least 10 articles per day.

Politico scored an average Factual Grade of 65.5% across 10,058 articles. This is above the 62.0% average for articles across the entire dataset, placing Politico in the 44th percentile.

Article scores for each news source, as rated by The Factual’s credibility algorithm, vary significantly, demonstrating how measurements of author expertise, writing tone, and provided evidence change markedly for each article. For instance, some articles from Politico scored 90% or above, while others scored below 25%. 

A high grade means an article is informative, relatively objective, and written by a topical expert. A low grade means many of these elements were not present or could not be verified. The article may still have merit but readers should know to treat the article with greater scrutiny. To learn more, visit our How It Works page.

How Biased Is Politico?

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, both due to the recency of the acquisition and because it owns both liberal and conservative publications. 

How to Mitigate Bias

Of course, having an overall liberal bias does not disqualify Politico 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.