Jul 1 1997

New Survey on Think Tanks

Media Favored Conservative Institutions in 1996

Major news media continued to give greater prominence to conservative think tanks in 1996, according to a survey of major paper and broadcast media citations in the Nexis computer database. Of the 10 most-media-cited think tanks, six are conservative or right-leaning, three are centrist and one is left-leaning. More than half of the total citations of think tanks were to conservative or right-leaning institutions; only 13 percent cited progressive or left-leaning institutions.

The centrist, establishment-oriented Brookings Institution regained the top spot among think tanks in 1996, ending the right-wing Heritage Foundation’s one-year reign (Extra!, 5-6/96). Brookings’ edging out of Heritage may reflect a shift away from 1995’s media focus on the GOP congressional agenda. In each of the last two years, the third and fourth most-cited think tanks were conservative: American Enterprise Institute and Cato Institute.

Only the top four think tanks–Brookings, Heritage, American Enterprise and Cato–were cited more than 1,000 times. The total number of media mentions of the four think tanks in this elite tier almost equals the combined number of mentions of the other 20 institutions listed.

Michael Dolny, a former FAIR intern, is the host of the Democracy Report on KUCR-FM in Riverside, California. He can be contacted at mikedolny@hotmail.com.

Source: Nexis database search of major newspapers and radio and TV transcripts.

(Numbers for 1995 may differ slightly from those published in Extra!, 5-6/96, due to changes in the Nexis database.)