Daniel W. Drezner

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 ...

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 Science

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.

 Twitter: @dandrezner

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