When do we care about political neutrality? The hypocritical nature of reaction to political bias

Omer Yair*, Raanan Sulitzeanu-Kenan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Claims and accusations of political bias are common in many countries. The essence of such claims is a denunciation of alleged violations of political neutrality in the context of media coverage, legal and bureaucratic decisions, academic teaching etc. Yet the acts and messages that give rise to such claims are also embedded within a context of intergroup competition. Thus, in evaluating the seriousness of, and the need for taking a corrective action in reaction to a purported politically biased act people may consider both the alleged normative violation and the political implications of the act/message for the evaluator’s ingroup. The question thus arises whether partisans react similarly to ingroup-aiding and ingroup-harming actions or messages which they perceive as politically biased. In three separate studies, conducted in two countries, we show that political considerations strongly affect partisans’ reactions to actions and messages that they perceive as politically biased. Namely, ingroup-harming biased messages/acts are considered more serious and are more likely to warrant corrective action in comparison to ingroup-aiding biased messages/acts. We conclude by discussing the implications of these findings for the implementations of measures intended for correcting and preventing biases, and for the nature of conflict and competition between rival political groups.

Original languageAmerican English
Article numbere0196674
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by a grant from the Max Kampelman Chair for Democracy and Human Rights. The funder had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript. The manuscript was completed while the first author was a PhD student at the department of political science at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. We wish to thank the reviewers and the editor, Avner de-Shalit, Noam Gidron, Nathan Kalmoe, Matthew Levendusky, Lilach Nir, Mattan Sharkansky, Yariv Tsfati, members of the Cognition and Policy Research Group at the Federmann School of Public Policy at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and participants at the annual meetings of the Israeli Political Science Association, the Southern Political Science Association and the Midwest Political Science Association for their comments and suggestions.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 Yair, Sulitzeanu-Kenan. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.


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