This paper focuses on the manifestation of partisan bias in mainstream news media. Specifically, this paper examines trends in rhetoric in regard to both the media source’s political affiliation and political opposition. Drawing on the framing theories of Goffman and Tankard, Jr., the theory of norms articulated by Habermas, and Cook’s theories of “new” and “old” media, the content of four cable news shows was analyzed to better understand the nature of partisan bias and what this nature demonstrates about political identity in the U.S. Five hypotheses were outlined and were confirmed to varying degrees. The first two expected news outlets to express their bias both through positive comments about their party of affiliation and negative comments about their political opponents. The third hypothesis predicted that far-left and far-right outlets will be more extreme in the presentations of bias outlined in the first two hypotheses. Similarly, the fourth hypothesis expected these far-left and far-right sources to make more appeals to American values and attacks on unAmerican values, while the fifth hypothesis predicted these same sources to be more explicit in the tone of both their positive and negative comments. The findings of this paper suggest the peddling of disparate perspectives by partisan news outlets to specific audiences on the basis of their political affiliation, a pertinent observation in 2018 as scrutiny surrounding the institution of increases.


Fitz Gibbon, Heather


Sociology and Anthropology


framing theory, news media, political fragmentation, partisan bias

Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis



© Copyright 2018 William C. Bates