STUDY: Media Uncritically Repeats GOP’s ‘Job Killer’ Talking Point

According to a new study, use of the phrase “job killer” has exploded in major media outlets since President Obama took office. An overwhelming majority of the time, the phrase was uncritically repeated, with the news organization failing to cite any evidence for it at all. The study, which was conducted by Prof. Peter Dreier of Occidental College and Christopher R. Martin of the University of Northern Iowa found:

— Media stories with the phrase “job killer” spiked dramatically after Barack Obama was elected president, particularly after he took office. The number of stories with the phrase “job killer” increased by 1,156% between the first three years of the George W. Bush administration (16 “job killer” stories) and the first three years of the Obama administration (201 “job killer” stories).

The majority of the sources of stories using the phrase “job killer” were business spokepersons and Republican Party officials. Republican officials (41.7%) and business sources (18.6%) were responsible for 60.3% of the “job killer” allegations. In 17% of the stories, news organizations used the phrase in articles and editorials without attributing the phrase to a source.

In 91.6% of the stories alleging that a government policy was or would be a “job killer,” the media failed to cite any evidence for this claim or to quote an authoritative source with any evidence for this claim. With little or no fact checking of “job killer” allegations, Americans have no way to know if there is any evidence for these claims.


Unsurprisingly, the Wall Street Journal was the most likely to cite the phrase job killer and the most likely to use it uncritically or without attribution.

The study’s authors wrote that “the news media, by failing to seek to verify allegations made about government policies and proposals, typically act more like a transmission belt for business, Republican, and conservative sources than an objective seeker of truth when it comes to the term ‘job killer.’” And this is certainly not the only instance in which the media help reinforce a conservative myth: the Social Security debate is plagued by misinformation thanks to media malfeasance.