News Release

Study Finds Conservative Think Tanks Predominant


Brookings Leads; Left-of-Center Think Tanks Decrease

WASHINGTON — A study released today found that conservative think tanks and the centrist Brookings Institution dominated much of the national media debate last year.

Of the 25 leading think tanks studied, Brookings had the most citations (2,883), twice as many media mentions as the next-ranked conservative/libertarian Cato Institute (1,428 cites). The conservative Heritage Foundation, which had rivaled Brookings in prominence a few years ago, has fallen to third place (1,419 cites), while the conservative American Enterprise Institute (1,263 cites) is the fourth most cited think tank in the U.S. media. These four think tanks accounted for 40 percent of the media cites.

The joint study — conducted by sociologist Michael Dolny for Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting (FAIR) and the Institute for Public Accuracy (IPA) — found that in 1999, right-leaning and conservative think tanks accounted for 46 percent of media citations, while centrist think tanks accounted for 45 percent and progressive or left-leaning ones received only 9 percent. In comparison, in 1997, Dolny found that conservative or right-leaning think tanks received 53 percent of all citations, while 16 percent of the citations went to progressive or left-leaning think tanks. While conservative think tanks have seen a drop in percentage since 1997, their overall number of media citations has increased. Meanwhile, progressive think tanks had a decrease not only in their percentage but also in their actual number of citations.

The most cited progressive or left-leaning think tanks in 1999 were the Urban Institute (712 cites) and the Economic Policy Institute (506 cites), which came in ninth and tenth.

The study, published in the current issue of FAIR’s magazine Extra!, used the Nexis database of major newspapers and transcripts of radio and TV programs.

The following analysts are available for interviews regarding the results of the study:

Dolny is an assistant professor of sociology at Montclair State University in New Jersey. He has conducted several studies of think tanks in the media.

Naureckas is editor of Extra!, the magazine of the media watch group FAIR.
More Information

For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy: Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; David Zupan, (541) 484-9167


IPA’s June 9 news release mistakenly presented numbers of think-tank citations in news media that were tabulated slightly differently for different years. This overstated the extent to which citations of left-leaning and right-leaning think tanks have decreased since 1997. Coded consistently, the numbers are:

Right-leaning/conservative: 53%
Center: 32%
Left-leaning/progressive: 16%

Right-leaning/conservative: 53%
Center: 36%
Left-leaning/progressive: 11%

Right-leaning/conservative: 51%
Center: 35%
Left-leaning/progressive: 13%