Think tanks: Left gains in media expert citations

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New FAIR Study

Right Ebbs, Left Gains as Media 'Experts'
Think tank balance still skews right

9/3/09

FAIR's just-released annual think tank study shows think tank citations declining for the fourth year in a row in 2008, as newspaper column space devoted to national and international news continued to shrink. The decline was particularly notable for conservative think tanks' citations, while progressive think tanks increased in number.

The study, a special online-only feature of FAIR's Extra! magazine, is available at http://www.fair.org/index.php?page=3857.

Among the study's findings:

-The overall decline in citations primarily hit conservative or right-leaning think tanks, whose share fell from 36 percent to 31 percent in 2008, while progressive or left-leaning think tanks increased from 17 percent to 21 percent.

-Centrist tanks still dominated with 48 percent, and the centrist Brookings Institution, the top-cited think tank, had more than twice as many citations as its nearest competitor, the conservative American Enterprise Institute.

-Progressives were cited 30 percent less than conservatives, and half as often as centrists.

-Progressive and left-leaning think tanks took a record five spots in the top 15 most-cited list, and had by far the greatest percentage increase of citations in this annual survey. The most notable increase was in progressive think tanks with an economic focus, such as the Economic Policy Institute, the Center for Economic and Policy Research and the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

Michael Dolny, author of the study, noted, "Both the economic crisis and the poor showing of conservative candidates in the 2008 elections appear to have raised questions about the role of conservative think tanks." However, pointing out that despite these gains, progressive think tanks are still underrepresented compared to their centrist and conservative counterparts, he also observed that "we are still a long way from true diversity of news sources."