Washington, D.C. — Media coverage of religion and LGBTQ rights more often cites religious-affiliated sources who oppose LGBTQ equality than those who support it, according to a new study from the Center for American Progress that reviewed recent news articles from national and local media outlets.
This finding is in stark contrast with the overall support for LGBTQ rights expressed by religious Americans. While 66.3 percent of the religiously identified sources in these articles expressed negative or anti-LGBTQ sentiment, public opinion polling of religious-affiliated Americans suggests that only 25.8 percent oppose nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people.
As public support in faith communities for LGBTQ rights has shifted dramatically in recent years, news media coverage of the intersection of faith and LGBTQ rights has not reflected this changing landscape, the study finds.
“Media coverage of LGBTQ issues and religion should fairly represent the pro-equality views of religious communities in the United States,” said Maggie Siddiqi, director of the faith and Progressive Policy Initiative at CAP. “This study shows that journalists should improve the diversity of faith voices in their coverage of the LGBTQ equality movement. Religious support for LGBTQ rights is a major story that mainstream media outlets need to get right.”
The study examined articles from select national and local newspapers across a 15-month period from April 2019 to June 2020. It reviewed news articles published by four national publications (The Associated Press, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post) and 10 local publications (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The Dallas Morning News, The Denver Post, Orlando Sentinel, Tampa Bay Times, The Charlotte Observer, The Detroit News, The Houston Chronicle, The Kansas City Star, and The Tennessean).
Other major findings include:
- While there is diversity in the representation of sources quoted among Christian groups, non-Christian sources were only marginally consulted.
- Of the religious traditions represented, mainline Protestant and Jewish sources quoted expressed the highest shares of positive or pro-LGBTQ sentiment.
- Evangelical Protestant sources and sources who were reported as generically Christian or religious had the highest shares of negative, anti-LGBTQ sentiment.
- Two major news events notably amplified the number of pro-LGBTQ religiously identified sources overall: the presidential candidacy of Pete Buttigieg and the possible schism of the United Methodist Church over the recognition of LGBTQ rights. If articles addressing these two events were omitted, the share of anti-LGBTQ faith sources would be considerably higher.
- Individuals identified as religious and as community members were predominantly positive or pro-LGBTQ equality, but were consulted less often than those identified as religious spokespersons, who were nearly evenly split between positive and negative sentiment.
- Despite the tireless advocacy of a broad coalition of pro-LGBTQ faith activists, a majority of activists/advocates quoted in the sample news stories opposed LGBTQ equality. These activists were identified generically as Christian or religious, implying that they represent a broader religious community than their own specific denomination or tradition.
- Without news coverage of Buttigieg—the first openly gay major presidential candidate—included in the sample, anti-LGBTQ officials were identified with their personal religious beliefs approximately two times more than pro-LGBTQ officials.
- Religiously identified sources who were speaking on behalf of a business were predominantly negative or anti-LGBTQ equality.
Read the report: “How Religion and LGBTQ Rights Intersect in Media Coverage” by Rucha Modi, Guthrie Graves-Fitzsimmons, Maggie Siddiqi, and Rasheed Malik
For more information or to talk to an expert, please contact Sam Hananel at gro.ssergorpnacirema@lenanahs or 202-478-6327.