The Federalist is an online conservative news website founded in 2013 that has seen its popularity grow in recent years, particularly during the Trump administration. According to the New York Times, The Federalist leans “headfirst into the culture wars,” questioning the Me Too movement and routinely contradicting medical and scientific expertise during the Covid-19 pandemic. So, how reliable is The Federalist as a news source?

How Factual Is The Federalist? 

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, The Federalist scored an average Factual Grade of 52.8%. This is well below the average of 61.9% for all 245 news sources that we analyzed. This places The Federalist in the 13th percentile of our dataset. 

Several factors contribute to these low overall scores. First, articles rarely include links to supporting evidence, and when such links do appear, they often direct readers to other content from The Federalist. Second, articles from the site generally produce low scores for author expertise, suggesting that authors rarely cover a topic consistently or have only published other low-scoring articles on the same subject. Finally, most articles are very or moderately opinionated, rather than neutral in tone.

Like any news source, scores for articles from The Federalist varied widely based on factors like author expertise and cited evidence. For example, some scored above 80%, while others scored well below 50%.

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How Opinionated Is The Federalist?

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.

The Federalist had an average Writing Tone score of 0.34, placing it in the 14th percentile in our dataset. This suggests that articles from the site are often written in a highly opinionated manner. Articles often incorporate emotionally loaded language in their reporting, suggesting they are seeking to elicit a specific response from readers rather than neutrally convey information.

What Is The Federalist’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. Based on this data, The Factual assigns The Federalist a “Right” bias. 

AllSides assigns The Federalist a “Right” classification based on independent research and 12,681 community ratings. Before August 2018, AllSides rated the site as “Lean Right,” though they give no explanation for the change in classification. Instead of the typical editorial analysis used to justify a site’s classification, AllSides points to the words of Ben Domenech, The Federalist’s founder, as evidence of its political bias. In a founding message in 2013 that pulled from principles that initially drove Time magazine at its founding in the 1920s, Domenech noted the site’s intention to lean to the “political right, with a small-c conservatism equipped with a populist respect for the middle class reader outside of New York and Washington.” Likewise, he espoused principles like distrust in growing interference by government, “prejudice against the rising cost of government,” and “a respect for the old.”

Media Bias/Fact Check (MBFC) rates The Federalist as having a far-right bias and as falling into the “Questionable Source” category. Sources in this category exhibit one or more of the following: “extreme bias, consistent promotion of propaganda/conspiracies, poor or no sourcing to credible information, a complete lack of transparency, and/or is fake news.” Specifically, they point to editorial positions that consistently favor the right and to content that promotes propaganda and conspiracy theories. Likewise, MBFC documents that The Federalist has numerous failed fact-checks, resulting in a “Mixed” rating for Factual Reporting. While MBFC does give some credit to the site for largely using credible sources, they also note that articles from the site contradict scientific consensus, such as on climate change, or offer completely false information, such as regarding the efficacy of masks against Covid-19. Additionally, The Federalist falsely made claims of large-scale election fraud while ballots were still being counted in the 2020 presidential election.

Who Owns The Federalist?

The Federalist is an independent division of FDRLST Media, founded by Ben Domenech and Sean Davis in 2013. While the site is funded partially through advertising, critics point out that this is insufficient to support its staff, and the site refuses to disclose its funding sources. There is some indication that Dick Uihlein, a billionaire packing supply magnate and ally of former president Trump, may be a major backer. A lack of transparency about the funding structure has led some to question what or who may be driving the site’s agenda.

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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.