Thursday, January 6, 2005

previous entry | main | next entry | TrackBack (3)

So you want to influence public opinion....

If you had an idea and wanted to insert it into the national debate, where would you publish it? In other words, what are the most influential media outlets in the United States?

Almost a decade ago, I had a conversation about this topic with someone who had served in the government at a pretty high level and was clearly on his way up the media ladder. His response was that on foreign policy questions, there were only four outlets that mattered: Foreign Affairs, the New York Times, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal. Which I've used as a rule of thumb.

Turns out that Erdos & Morgan conduct an annual survey on this kind of question -- although it deals with influence writ large rather than specifically influencing foreign policy. Last month the 2004-5 results were released -- and the Council on Foreign Relations is very excited about it:

Foreign Affairs has been ranked the most influential media outlet in the United States, according to a new study of U.S. opinion leaders conducted by Erdos & Morgan, the premier business-to-business research firm. The findings place Foreign Affairs ahead of all other magazines and newspapers - including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and The Economist - as well as all broadcast media....

The Erdos & Morgan 2004-2005 survey represents the views of over 450,000 American thought leaders who shape policy and opinion in the public and private sectors. It is the best-known and most widely used survey of opinion leaders in the United States, and documents where they get the information they use in their work.

Here's the top 10:

Foreign Affairs
CQ Weekly
The New York Times
The Wall Street Journal
The Economist
Harvard Business Review
The Washington Post
The New York Times Sunday Edition
The New England Journal of Medicine

A few things worth noting:

1) I'm surprised that no broadcast media cracked the top 10.

2) One wonders how individual blogs would do if they were added to the survey (I'm assuming they weren't, since this is targeted at large-scale advertisers. If Henry Copeland is smart, though, he'd pay to see that some blogs were added to the list). I doubt they would crack the top 10 -- but I could see one or two of them cracking the top 25.

UPDATE: Someone has e-mailed me this press release in which the New York Times makes similar claims to Foreign Affairs. However, read this comment -- which suggests that basically the NYT and Foreign Affairs are using slightly different interpretations of "influence" -- and both publications have some substantive claim to this mantle.

posted by Dan on 01.06.05 at 05:58 PM


whose blogs would crack the top 25?

posted by: jonk on 01.06.05 at 05:58 PM [permalink]

I am just glad Fox News isn't in the top 10.

As to the blogs, I think there have been surveys like that - I am not sure if the number was exactly 25. I read it on a website once but I cannot recall which one... I assume if you google it, you will find it.

posted by: Fab on 01.06.05 at 05:58 PM [permalink]

whose blogs would crack the top 25?

The ones that got Instalanched.

posted by: The Lonewacko Blog on 01.06.05 at 05:58 PM [permalink]

In my opinion, the Harvard Business Review does not belong on this list. It has been unreadable for years. One that belongs is the National Journal.

posted by: Bruce Bartlett on 01.06.05 at 05:58 PM [permalink]

It would be interesting to know more about the methodology of this survey. "Elite" surveys are notoriously unreliable because it is hard to define who belongs in the group and then they tend to dissemble and/or veer towards conventional wisdom when they are asked questions. 450,000 people in the sample??? A bit hard to imagine. What is the circulation of Foreign Affairs? Can't believe that WSJ or NYT was not on top. Let's look at the questions.

posted by: RCK on 01.06.05 at 05:58 PM [permalink]

Excuse me...The New England Journal of Medicine and Science? Publications influential on foreign policy? I doubt it.

Is this really what this survey was trying to measure? Also, as far as writing for these influential publications is concerned, at least two of them -- the Economist and CQ -- only publish people who work for them. So you're pretty much back to what Dan's friend said.

posted by: Zathras on 01.06.05 at 05:58 PM [permalink]

By "idea" I assume you mean something policy-wonkish, based on the list of media outlets. To spread a "rumor" I would rank the Internet and TV folks much higher. Drudge Report might be tops.

posted by: Dimmy Karras on 01.06.05 at 05:58 PM [permalink]

Zathras:Excuse me...The New England Journal of Medicine and Science? Publications influential on foreign policy? I doubt it.

Is this really what this survey was trying to measure?

Drezner:Turns out that Erdos & Morgan conduct an annual survey on this kind of question -- although it deals with influence writ large rather than specifically influencing foreign policy

Relax, Zathras.

If the Nelson Report is to be believed on Bush's cocooning, Fox News should indeed be added to the list.

There is rising concern amongst senior officials that President Bush does not grasp the increasingly grim reality of the security situation in Iraq because he refuses to listen to that type of information. Our sources say that attempts to brief Bush on various grim realities have been personally rebuffed by the President, who actually says that he does not want to hear "bad news."

Rather, Bush makes clear that all he wants are progress reports, where they exist, and those facts which seem to support his declared mission in Iraq...building democracy. "That's all he wants to hear about," we have been told. So "in" are the latest totals on school openings, and "out" are reports from senior US military commanders (and those intelligence experts still on the job) that they see an insurgency becoming increasingly effective, and their projection that "it will just get worse."

posted by: Anderson on 01.06.05 at 05:58 PM [permalink]

Like many blog readers, I have BIG IDEAS I would like to address to decision-makers. Posting comments to blogs is so much more satisfying than writing letters to the editors of "influential" media.

Why don't you celebrate the participatory nature of blogs by having an annual contest for top 10 public policy ideas that aren't currently part of the mainstream political conversation? You and other blog editors-- left, right and agnostic-- could judge the ideas and vote for top ten. Concentrating the energy of blogosphere in this manner could provide further lift to the medium.

Here's my BIG IDEA. Tax all estates ($50 trillion is going to pass from one generation to the next over the coming 50 years) at rates ranging from 5-15% to raise $5 trillion (assuming average rate of 10%).

Virtues of this include:

1. Incentives: As opposed to raising taxes on current income-- wages and investment income-- a modest death tax will not distort incentives to produce. No one will be less likely to save or create wealth because of a small death tax.

2. Fairness. If you end up consuming less than you have produced over your lifetime, you have probably benefited more from our government than you have paid in taxes. During your lifetime, you were helped by tax supported education, encouraged to purchase housing with tax-deductible mortgage interest, prodded to save for retirement with tax-advantaged savings schemes, and helped to live as long as possible thanks to a medical system that spends an absurdly large proportion of all medical expeditures on the soon-to-be dead. If there is money left over when you die, a crude final accounting that knicks the value of all estates seems only fair.

3. There is real money here. $50 trillion is going to be transferred, compared to our $10 trillion GDP.

4. Democrats and Republicans would find it politically painful to support. Republicans wan't to elimintae the death tax and Democrats want to exempt everyone but the richest from paying. Neither could claim a partisan victory if the proposal were enected.

Sorry to wedge my BIG IDEA into this topic, but it feels better than howling out of my window.

posted by: bill on 01.06.05 at 05:58 PM [permalink]

Interesting, but doesn't a survey like this depend very, very heavily on how they select the sample of "thought leaders?" And with 450,000 it sounds like they cast a very wide net, so most of those fish are pretty small.

posted by: ed on 01.06.05 at 05:58 PM [permalink]

"Thought leaders/moderators" would have to be somewhat arbitrarily selected. I would vote for Drezner, Setser, Sullivan, Marshall, Kaus, Powerline and Reynolds. My list will be light on liberal blogs reflecting my bias. It wouldn't be too hard develop a method of panel selection that blog visitors everywhere would accept as broadly representative of the field.

posted by: bill on 01.06.05 at 05:58 PM [permalink]

A couple of methodological points on the Erdos & Morgan report.

First, from their data it seems that they surveyed about 3,000 of the broader 450,000 pool (which was itself compiled from a large variety of sources like position directories, etc.), of which more than half replied.

Second, the rankings are apparently based on the percentage of a publication's readers (or watchers) who described it as influential. Thus the FA top spot really seems to mean that a higher percentage of Foreign Affairs readers consider it influential than readers of other publications consider those. One would think that a true measure of influence might better be achieved by multiplying such a figure with the sheer number of readers involved, but that's not what they did, and who's to complain, given the results?

Third, Foreign Affairs has just under 140,000 subscribers these days.

posted by: lamont cranston on 01.06.05 at 05:58 PM [permalink]

My votes would be for Tyler Cowen, Drezner, Matt Yglesias, Eugene Volokh, Greg Djerejian, Brad DeLong, and Megan McArdle.

Oh, and Giblets.

Probably a good thing I don't really have a vote.

posted by: fling93 on 01.06.05 at 05:58 PM [permalink]

Why is the NY Times Sunday Edition considered separately from the NY Times ? I know there are more readers for the Sunday edition, and it has extra sections like Magazine etc., but enough to make it a complete new entry ?

posted by: erg on 01.06.05 at 05:58 PM [permalink]

Post a Comment:


Email Address:



Remember your info?