Rachel Maddow, the Nation, Daily Kos: Winners in AlterNet's Poll of Most Influential Progressives


Rachel Maddow, host of the 9pm (EDT) evening news and opinion show on MSNBC, reigns supreme as the most influential progressive. Or, more accurately, the media personality progressives love most. Maddow pulled well ahead of Michael Moore, who just nipped Comedy Central's Jon Stewart for the second spot. (In the first AlterNet poll in December 2009, Bill Moyers was voted most influential, with Moore second and Maddow third.) Keith Olbermann, who recently left MSNBC, ranked fourth, and the veteran newscaster from Democracy Now! Amy Goodman, came in fifth, according to more than 8,000 AlterNet readers and others across the web who voted in our poll.

In the online magazine category, the Nation came out ahead of Mother Jones, with the Huffington Post finishing a strong third (despite selling itself to AOL for $315 million). TruthOut placed fourth, followed by Salon.com at fifth. (As host of the poll, AlterNet was not available as a choice.)

The blog category featured the closest race, with the Daily Kos just beating out Media Matters for the first spot. FireDogLake finished third, followed by Crooks and Liars. Ezra Klein's Washington Post blog got number five.

The survey shows that television shapes our notion of what constitutes influence. In addition to Maddow, Stewart, and Olbermann in the top five (and Goodman's Democracy Now! being a hybrid radio-TV at #5), Bill Maher was at seven, Stephen Colbert at nine, and Ed Schultz at 10. In fact, seven of the top 10 host their own TV shows (or in Olbermann's case, had in the past). Even the Nation's Chris Hayes, who subs for various shows on MSNBC, shot up to number 15, after not even being in the race at all in the last poll. Thom Hartmann at 14 has a new TV show on Russia Today, and is also a mainstay on talk radio's Sirius FM and via syndication.  

Only the ever-popular Noam Chomsky at six, and NY Times economic columnist Paul Krugman at eight, made the top 10 despite not having a heavy TV presence (Michael Moore has his own special multimedia presence, of course).

While the Huffington Post scored as the third most popular web magazine, its media savvy leader, Arianna Huffington dropped down to 12, after getting to seven in the first poll at the end of 2009. However, comparisons between the first vote and this one are affected by the inclusion of TV personalities Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert and Bill Maher, who all ended up in the top 10, but were not included in the first poll.

A number of readers wanted to vote for these TV hosts last time, while others wondered if they qualify as "progressives." We decided to let the voters decide and clearly the sense is that the trio are both progressive and popular. Also Bill Moyers was primarily a TV presence when he won the first poll. (Moyers has since mostly retired, at least from his perch on PBS, so we moved him to "emeritus" status.)

Since too much of American culture is saddled by the winner-take-all syndrome, we see this poll as taking the temperature of the progressive audience, with those scoring well being part of an A team of progressive media personalities and journalists. This group, together, represent a potent and charismatic progressive media team.  

Key figures seem to get a lot of their influence via their presence on MSNBC. Unfortunately this may make progressives vulnerable going forward. Two weeks ago, I wrote about how Keith Olbermann's departure from MSNBC  is a big loss for progressives (he will start his new gig at Current TV sometime late spring in the same 8pm time slot), and the same for Bob Herbert and Frank Rich leaving the NY Times, Moyers retiring and HuffPo going to AOL. There has been a good deal of speculation about the political attitude and commitment to MSNBC's mostly progressive lineup at Comcast, which took over controlling interest of NBC from General Electric. Some suspect that Olbermann's departure was done right ahead of the merger, so Comcast wouldn't have that publicity as it was taking over. Maddow, Schultz, Hayes, and Cenk Uygur (who ranked 21st) all have high visibility due to their cable perch.

It's clearly harder to gain influence without a regular TV platform. A poll that looked at just writers would have these talented progressives in the top 10: Paul Krugman, Naomi Klein, Matt Taibbi (13th) , Seymour Hersh (16th), Jim Hightower (17th), Chris Hedges (18th), Glenn Greenwald (19th), Katrina van den Heuvel (20th),  David Corn (22nd),  and Jeremy Scahill (23rd).

In the online magazine contest, it's interesting that the Nation and Mother Jones also have print versions, as does the Progressive, which came in at seven. Meanwhile, others in the online top 10 are web only, including (in addition to HuffPo, Salon and TruthOut) Think Progress at six, TruthDig at eight, Common Dreams at nine, and Talking Points Memo at 10. A relative newcomer, but gaining traction, is Raw Story at 11, and in a big accomplishment, TomDispatch, the creation of uber book editor Tom Englehardt, which typically publishes just three major features a week, is at 13,  just behind the Utne Reader at 12 , and ahead of the American Prospect at 14 and CounterPunch, at 15. 

As for the blogosphere, it seems those blogs with most influence also garner the most visitor traffic, according to various tracking systems. The second five most influential blogs are: Right-Wing Watch, Wonkette, Liberal Oasis, Kevin Drum's blog, which is on Mother Jones, and Juan Cole.com. Digby's Hullabaloo comes in at 11. 

One of the weaknesses of the progressive universe is the lack of influential voices of color. AlterNet's audience, along with most of the progressive magazines and blogs, have audiences of color that percentage wise are relatively small -- generally in the 10-15 percent range by on-line measuring companies. Meanwhile the overall population of African Americans and Latinos in the U.S. is roughly 28 percent. There are no people of color who host television shows with big audiences, with the exception of Juan Gonzalez, who co-hosts Democracy Now! with Amy Goodman.

In terms of this survey, ranking the 10 most influential people of color: Cornel West, Melissa Harris-Perry, Juan Gonzalez, Bob Herbert, James Rucker, Patricia Williams, Don Rojas, Rinku Sen, Kai Wright, and Roberto Lovato. 

Some demographic information about the survey participants: 52.9% are male, 46.7 % are female. This comes closer to gender equity than most data on who reads and watches progressive media, and .3% or 27 transgender people. The majority of people who participated were over 50 years old, while just about 30% were between 25 and 49. 65% have college or graduate degrees, and 55% read AlterNet every day, while  20% only occasionally, or came to AlterNet for the first time to fill out the survey.

It should be kept in mind that while we did our best to be inclusive, there will no doubt be differences of opinion; first on who is a progressive as well as who was included in the list of nominees. Our apologies to anyone who feels left out. We encouraged people to write in names in all categories, and we will include anyone who got any significant mention in the next survey.

Poll participants were asked to choose the 10 people, magazines and blogs they thought most influential, with 1 being the most influential. Then for ranking in each category, each number 1 vote was given 10 points, number 2, 9 points, down to 1 point for a number 10. 

Most Influential ProgressivesTotal Points
Rachel Maddow79,990
Michael Moore57,574
Jon Stewart56,139
Keith Olbermann45,830
Amy Goodman42,883
Noam Chomsky38,326
Bill Maher37,698
Paul Krugman35,711
Stephen Colbert32,850
Ed Schultz31,878
Naomi Klein28,921
Arianna Huffington27,860
Matt Taibbi24,889
Thom Hartmann21,692
Chris Hayes18,002
Seymour Hersh16,279
Jim Hightower16,140
Chris Hedges15,848
Glenn Greenwald15,817
Katrina van den Heuvel15,057
Cenk Uygur13,948
David Corn12,539
Jeremy Scahill11,586
Robert Greenwald11,179
Cornel West10,858
Frank Rich10,295
Markos Moulitsas9,742
Dylan Rattigan8,579
Melissa Harris-Perry7,697
Barbara Ehrenreich7,630
Juan Gonzalez7,505
Laura Flanders7,223
Bob Herbert7,184
Jane Hamsher6,384
David Brock6,096
Online MagsTotal Points
The Nation66,454
Mother Jones59,323
Huffington Post50,996
Truth Out45,034
Think Progress37,252
The Progressive32,286
Common Dreams27,999
Raw Story14,943
Utne Reader13,536
American Prospect13,169
Open Democracy10,860
Yes! Magazine8,685
Washington Monthly8,111
BlogsTotal Points
Media Matters50,596
Crooks And Liars36,441
Ezra Klein-Washington Post28,268
Right Wing Watch15,682
Liberal Oasis12,113
Matthew Yglesias8,072
Lawyers, Guns & Money6,957
Political Animal5,843

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