AlterNet User Survey Results

In December of last year, AlterNet created a survey to learn more about you, our readers. The survey results are finally in, and they are both striking and extremely encouraging. Your enthusiasm for online news in general and for AlterNet in particular have re-invigorated our work.

Well over 5,000 of you responded to the survey. That's almost a quarter of our Headline recipients, an extremely high response rate. Literally thousands of you wrote additional supportive and encouraging notes and comments. Thank you very much for participating.

The survey results indicate the emergence of a new type of news consumer -- a personality we'll call the "AlterNet news activist." By and large, you "news activists" are engaged, well informed and very Web savvy -- 86% of you use the web as a primary source of news and information. Six out of ten spend more than 11 hours a week online; of those, half spend more than 20 hours a week online. Twenty-six percent of you visit AlterNet one or more times a day, and more than 60% visit several times a week.

To supplement your Web information, 55% of you read daily newspapers, 51% listen to public radio, 48% watch television and 44% read magazines of opinion. Survey participants also mentioned e-mail newsletters, books, Pacifica radio and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation as important news sources.

The intensity of your news and information appetite, the diversity of your makeup (in terms of age, income, geography), your high education and your committment to change make "AlterNet news activists" the kind of people that shape public opinion and provoke change. We are proud to be in partnership with you, and will continue giving you the information and the high quality journalism that you need and want.

Below are many survey highlights, including the issues you care about, the people you admire, the media you use and your demographics as a group. Needless to say, the survey produced some surprises for us. We hope you find the results as stimulating as we do.

Political Orientation

When we asked you to "pick the word that best describes your political attitudes" ...

- 33% picked "progressive"
- 17% picked "liberal"
- 11% picked "independent"
- 9 % picked "radical"

Moderate, radical and libertarian each scored 4%, while conservative and apathetic only scored 1% each. A full 16% were unhappy with their options and filled in the "other" category with responses like pragmatist, Pan-Africanist, socialist, (d)emocrat and many others.

Who You Admire and Who You Don't

The immense popularity of Noam Chomsky, a phenomenon that has endured for several decades, continues among AlterNet readers. The following people were ranked "most admired" by the percentage of AlterNet readers below:

- Noam Chomsky: 70%
- Ralph Nader: 62%
- Michael Moore: 55%
- Bill Moyers: 52%
- Molly Ivins: 46%
- Jim Hightower: 43%
- Barbara Ehrenreich: 39%

On the other end of the spectrum, you gave poor marks to some well known political figures. The following were ranked "least admired" by the percentage below:

- Bill Clinton: 50%
- Al Gore: 49%
- Al Sharpton: 47%
- Hillary Clinton: 43%
- Jesse Jackson: 33%

Unfortunately, we didn't include Dubya in the survey.

In terms of who is most known, Bill and Hillary both got ranked by 99% of our readers; Gore by 98%, Jackson and Nader by 97%; Chomsky by 88% and Bill Moyers by 81%.

At the low end of the recognition scale were a host of successful women, suggesting that female leaders don't get media coverage on par with their male counterparts. Least well known were activist/writer Starhawk, with only 36% of our readership recognizing her; Nation columnist Katha Pollitt with 38%; Feminist Majority head Eleanor Smeal with 39%; leader of the Children's Defense Fund Marion Wright Edelman with 41%; and globalization writer/activist Naomi Klein with 42%.

Michael Moore was your favorite AlterNet writer with a 59% approval rating, followed by Jim Hightower at 52%, Barabara Ehrenreich at 48%, Arianna Hufington at 44% and David Corn at 41%.

Issues You Care About

The issues you picked as "most important" strongly reflect the current political situation. The top issues of concern to you were:

- Civil Liberties (90%)
- Human Rights (88%)
- Civil Rights (88%)
- U.S. Foreign Policy (83%)
- Economic Fairness and Environmental Health (tied at 81%)

At the low end of the list were Gay and Lesbian Rights (46%) and Immigration (42%). Many of you wrote in additional issues; some that might have scored high if they were listed include animal rights, racism and religious freedom.

Favorite Web Sites

It's abundantly clear that AlterNet fans actively visit many other sites. But when we asked you how "useful" you found many of those sites, the results were surprising. For example, 83% of you visit, but only 17% of you find it useful. is visited by 78%, but only 23% find it useful.

After CNN and Yahoo, your most visited sites are:

- with 66%
- with 64%
- with 55%
- with 54%
- with 48%

The most useful sites (besides AlterNet, with a thrilling 88%) were:

- with 32%
- Onion.Com with 31%
- MotherJones.Com with 29%
- with 29%
- WorkingforChange.Com with 27%

You also nominated hundreds of additional sites. The most write-in votes went to, followed by, BBC.Com,, and There were many sites which received clusters of nominations including:,, The Black World Today (,,,,,,,,,,,,, and


The AlterNet community is very diverse in terms of age. Forty seven percent of you are under forty years of age. A quarter of you are under 29 years of age. These numbers are in contrast to most of the general interest and political opinion magazines like the Nation, Mother Jones, The New Yorker and Harpers, who's reader numbers skew much older.


Geographically, you are spread across the land and globe. California is home to 16% of you, followed by New York at 7% and Texas at 4%. Seven percent of AlterNet users are from Canada and 9% are from other countries -- overall a 16% international audience. Forty-five percent of you live in cities; 26% in the suburbs, 15% in small towns and 10% in rural areas.

Gender and Sexuality

One pleasant surprise in the survey is that AlterNet's audience is relatively evenly split between men and women, 54-46%, highly unusual with general interest on-line sites. (The popular site, in contrast, has about a 75-25 male-to-female ratio). In terms of sexuality, 76% of you identify as hetero, 8% as gay/lesbian and 7% as bisexual (with 10% casting a protest vote: "I don't identify as anything.") Also, 1% of you are transgender -- 73 of you who filled out the survey.


Unfortunately, the AlterNet universe isn't very racially diverse yet. This mirrors general online trends, but as the Web becomes more diverse we hope that AlterNet will be a place for people of all races to congregate and find important news and information. At least 77% identify as white, and 11% identify as people of color. Meanwhile, 13% picked "other" or refused the categories we offered, some citing their mixed racial origins and others offended at the question period, describing themselves simply as "human."

Education and Profession

You are, as a rule, well educated -- 71% have a college or graduate degree. Professionally, you are once again all over the map:

- 24% work for a non-profit
- 21% for a for-profit
- 16% are self employed
- 11% are students
- 8 % are retired

Additional categories noted: Educator, government worker, disabled, artist, journalist, homemaker, mother, wage slave, stay at home dad, just laid off, trains race horses, and many more.

Don Hazen is the Executive Editor of

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