The sports network’s research group published a poll it conducted with ESPN viewers and how they perceive the network’s political leanings. Though reports of a “liberal” ESPN losing in the numbers game has been a popular narrative as of late, ESPN Research did not find that to be the case with its audience.
Approximately two-thirds (64 percent) of respondents believe ESPN is getting it right in terms of mixing sports news and political issues. Another 10 percent had no opinion … and 8 percent said ESPN does not do enough politics in its programming.
The number of viewers who think ESPN is political actually hasn’t changed since October of last year, though many people have speculated it has increased its political coverage, which has impacted negative ratings. These kind of polling numbers indicate that the narrative is more symptom than sickness, and people are simply searching for explanations that differ from the shifting state of cable television and the way people consume sports.
In fact, those that say ESPN is failing because of a liberal media bias can’t account for those that feel the network is actually too conservative about its coverage of sports.
Of those who see a bias, 30 percent actually believe ESPN expresses a conservative viewpoint. Most importantly, even those who identify as conservative (or Republican) actually rate ESPN’s overall performance higher than those groups had in October.
The modern media landscape is so fractured these days that it’s pretty easy to shield yourself from viewpoints you don’t share. With sports coverage, though, the isolation isn’t nearly as complete as in other areas like politics and entertainment. Though personalities like Sage Steele and Bomani Jones can both work at the massive network, the overall tone of ESPN cannot be both liberal and conservative.
When people claim the sports world is too liberal or conservative, it seems they’re often making their politics more clear than actually what’s being presented by ESPN.