RealClearPolitics (RCP) was founded in 2003 as a clearing house for the best news and commentary from across the political spectrum. Its founders strongly believed in exposure to diverse opinions and continued debate in the political sphere. The site also became a trusted polling aggregator. However, the site has come under fire for drifting rightward since 2017, with a 2020 New York Times article detailing a shift to pro-Trump coverage and away from “straight news,” as well as increasing financial linkages to conservative donors. So, how biased is RCP and how reliable is its news coverage?

How Factual Is RealClearPolitics? 

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, RCP scored an average Factual Grade of 62.9%. This is just above the 61.9% average for all 245 news sources that we analyzed and places the site in the 46th percentile of our dataset. 

Several factors raise or lower scores from RCP. For example, in terms of sourcing information, RCP has inconsistent practices. Some articles feature many relevant links to a diverse range of sources as supporting evidence; others have almost no links at all. Similarly, there is significant variation in the wording of articles: some are written to neutrally convey information, while others are highly opinionated.

Like any news source, scores for articles from RCP 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 RealClearPolitics?

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.

RCP had an average Writing Tone score of 0.37, placing it in the 17th percentile in our dataset. This suggests that articles from the site are often written in a highly opinionated fashion, meaning they incorporate emotionally loaded language and seek to elicit an emotional response from readers rather than neutrally convey information.

What Is the Political Bias of RealClearPolitics?

The Factual classifies news sites by political bias as either Left, Moderate Left, Center, Moderate Right, or Right. This classification is derived from third-party assessments from media bias organizations such as AllSides and Media Bias/Fact Check. Based on this data, The Factual assigns RCP a Moderate Right bias. 

AllSides helps capture how sites like RCP can encapsulate a range of political bias. AllSides notes that while the external articles featured on RCP’s homepage are very balanced, featuring roughly equal numbers of right and left perspectives, the section of the website for RCP articles has a conservative bias. Overall, AllSides rates RCP as “Center” based on an editorial review, independent research, and 9,955 community ratings.

Media Bias/Fact Check (MBFC) assigns RCP a “Right-Center” classification based on “source selection that leans right.” They also note that RCP scores a “Mostly Factual” score rather than “Very High” or “High” due to occasional use of sources with failed fact checks. MBFC acknowledges the site’s interest in ideological diversity but says the site features more stories from right-leaning sources.

Other perspectives suggest that RCP has undergone a rightward, pro-Trump shift since 2017, exhibiting a more conservative bent than in the past. A 2020 article from the New York Times documents this shift, suggesting “Real Clear became one of the most prominent platforms for elevating unverified and reckless stories about the president's [Trump’s] political opponents, through a mix of its own content and articles from across conservative media.” This shift reportedly correlates with when much of its staff for “straight-news reporting on Capitol Hill, the White House and national politics were suddenly laid off” and an increase in donations from conservative donors.

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Who Owns Real Clear Politics?

Today, RCP is owned by the RealClear Media Group, which also runs a host of other RealClear sites, such as RealClearDefense, RealClearEnergy, and RealClearWorld. Forbes Media LLC owned the website from 2007 until 2015, until it was bought back by RealClearInvestors and Crest Media. RCP was originally created by John McIntyre and Tom Bevan in 2003 as a one-stop shop for all of the very best news stories and commentaries from across the internet. While both founders lean conservative, the 2020 New York Times article reported that RCP journalists “never felt any pressure from the site’s founders to bias their stories.” At the same time, the RealClearFoundation is reportedly funded by other conservative groups such as the Ed Uihlein Family Foundation and Sarah Scaife Foundation.

Why Does It Matter?

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 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.