In the following selections, we use "non partisan" to label sites which declare themselves non partisan, and which we found out to be non partisan. We use "left of center" and "right of center" to label sites with liberal or conservative leanings, but which retain reasonable objectivity and which are not, in general, advocates -as an average- across their many writers. We use "liberal" or "conservative" to label sites which we believe are significantly partisan or advocates for a side.
Best Site to Figure Out Where You Stand
Political labels are harder to use than ever. When you are a liberal, are you a social or a fiscal liberal? When you are a conservative, are you a social or a fiscal conservative? Where do you fit if you are a libertarian? Do you believe in strong or weak government? Where do your beliefs slot you?
- Political Compass gives you a questionnaire of basic questions, and interprets your answer to give you a better graphical understanding of where you stand in several dimensions. For many of us at ConsumerPla.net, the outcome of the analysis from Political Compass was at first surprising, yet, in the end, made very good sense.
Best Political Fact Checking Sites
Do you trust political ad campaigns to get to the truth? We have all become jaded, and sometimes cynical, about facts, truth, and politics. Our research has uncovered several outstanding sites to fact check political assertions, and figure out where your candidates stand.
- Politifact.com is our #1 pick, and an outstanding site. A Pulitzer Prize winner, and a non partisan project of the St Petersburg Times, it looks at the big national picture, as well at specific stories. It rates how true political assertions are, and whether campaign promises are being met. It specifically tracks the fulfillment of presidential election promises. Politifact is an outstanding site, which you will find interesting regardless of where you live.
- FactCheck.org, a project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania, the recipient of several Webby Awards, is another excellent non partisan project. Like Politifact, it looks at significant stories and evaluates the truth of political assertions. A neat feature: you can ask FactCheck about specific assertions.
- VoteSmart.org aims to provide you with specific local information you can use. Another non partisan project which relies on many volunteers, it gives you the lists of candidates you will vote on, depending upon your address, and their positions on significant issues when they are known. One major way in which it obtains information is by asking candidates' organizations to fill questionnaires on major issues. Many organizations are not ready to openly discuss their positions on difficult issues, so, as a result, you do not always get the information you need (these candidates are downgraded by VoteSmart).
Best Campaign/ Ad Funding Source Analysis
Following a recent Supreme Court decision, interest groups can now significantly influence election outcomes by funding ads in a campaign without disclosing the origin of their funding. As a result, some races see third party interests actually outspending the candidates themselves.
- Open Secrets, a non partisan organization, gathers, analyzes and publishes information about which organizations fund what political campaigns or directly finance "independent" ad campaigns. Open Secrets uses volunteers and paid staff, and is the best at what it does, but cannot, of course, be expected to unearth all of of the significant players, in an election which may end up costing $4B across all candidates and influence organizations.
Best Spin Control Watch
The origin of information in a political campaign is often as important as the information itself, and camouflaging this origin often is a part of the game. How do you figure out whether the source of an information is credible?
- SourceWatch, a left of center organization, focuses on identifying the source of critical campaign stories, along with the possible bias of the source. It attempts to remain reasonably objective in its analysis, and does track stories from both sides. On the whole, however, it should be counterbalanced by a right of center organization. Unfortunately, we were unable to find a credible organization with equivalent strengths right of center. We find the two big spin analysis players on on the right, Accuracy in Media and Media Research Center, to play too much of an advocacy role to be truly credible organizations when truth in politics is concerned.
Best Political News Flashes
- Political Wire provides brief news flashes - many of them every day - and links to reference posts or raw data.
Best Vote Projections
- FiveThirtyEight, named for the presidential electors, is part of the New York Times, and tracks the progress of voting projections throughout the campaign.
- Electoral Vote, funded and staffed by the same organization as The Political Wire, also provides real time tracking of all country polls, and publishes non-stop large numbers of stories that are related to election projections.
Best Political Coverage Sites (excluding major newspapers)
Where should you get your political news? In this section, we feel that it is better to classify from the get go all sites with their political affiliation, overt or implied. We made the final determination as to what political affiliation should be assigned to each site.
- Politico, a non partisan site, is a stellar example of what new media can be. It represents in 2011 what good newspapers must have been at the turn of the 1900s, a vibrant new media full of excitement and value, where the man on the street got the latest information.
- The Hill is a non partisan newspaper with an excellent site, unaffiliated with the major news organizations, and largely focused on federal politics. Somehow it never gets mentioned in any of the lists we have seen - good writers, timely info, excellent coverage - worth being a lot better known.
- CNN: Politics, non partisan to slightly left of center: one cannot discuss political coverage without mentioning CNN. They have the largest organization, always up to date, well organized and well presented. Their analysis does not match their information coverage.
- Slate: News and Politics, slightly left of center, is of Politico quality but with less breadth, a great example of new media in the 2010s, lively, interesting, up to date, good analysis.
- The Atlantic: Politics, part of a left of center site, could also be classified under the "thinking person" category. The site has decent coverage, but also provides stories, and probably as much analysis as coverage.
- RealClearPolitics, right of center, another excellent example of new media for the 2010s, aggregates stories but also carries its own. A lot of information, moves fast, dense presentation, conservative sympathies but overall tries to keep a neutral tone.
Best Liberal Blogs and Commentaries
There are many excellent and opinionated blogs on both sides - but we decided to focus on sites rather than individual blogs. When we talk about blogs, we mean blog sites covering multiple authors and streams.
- The Huffington Post, with an outstanding set of bloggers and a large audience, started with a strong liberal leanings, but has now moved much closer to the center. It is seen as a center organization by liberals, and as left of center by conservatives. Highly recommended for the quality of the bloggers and the spirited tone of the publication.
- Talking Points Memo started with a single blogger. It has become, over the past 10 years, a major site of broad political coverage. It started left of center but has moved closer to a neutral point in the political spectrum. Famed for deep investigative reporting.
- The Daily Kos, a strongly liberal site, is a traditional flag bearer for its side, and provides unashamed liberal opinions and commentaries. Fun and opinionated.
- TruthDig, openly liberal, gathered a large handful of awards at the last Webbies. Excellent stories, a lot of new content all the time, interesting look - altogether a great package if you want to read people who think like you (if you are on the left) and are not afraid to be advocates.
- Daily Beast: Politic left of center, softer tone, more neutral coverage, interesting opinions and articles.
Best Conservative Blogs and Commentaries
Again, when we talk about blogs, we mean blog sites covering multiple authors and streams.
- Townhall is the right wing counterpart to the Huffington Post, with an strong stable of bloggers, large amounts of content, influential and interesting voices.
- Human Events is the old man on the block. Around since the 2nd World War, it has steadily maintained its conservative orientation. Its tone might have sounded a touch strident in the 80s, but now it seems to be the wise old man of the right wing, with strong advocacy and, occasionally, sound analysis as well.
- Newsmax is really a conservative news site with a strong advocacy voice. We had originally classified it as a news site, but it carries such a partisan voice that we ended up moving it to the commentary section.Wide breadth of reporting, good entertainment value.
- The Drudge Report is in your face. A flag bearer for the right wing, awful presentation, aggressive content, it is never afraid to shock, and no stranger to hyperbole.
- Hot Air entertains as much as it informs, a la MTV. It combines aggregation with its own stable of bloggers, and never hesitates before using screaming headlines. Highly partisan and proud of it.
Best Thinking Man's Political Sites
These sites provide deep analysis and provocative thoughts. They represent the best of the best in political reporting, although not always so in news coverage. To them we could add Slate and The Atlantic, already listed in different categories.
- The New Republic, also a print publication, used to be left leaning, but has moved to the center, and is not considered by the left to be a liberal site any more. Outstanding analysis, deep thinking, provocative writers.
- The Nation is the traditional flag bearer for the left, and has been for the past 40 years. While it used to be, many years ago, in competition with The New Republic in this role, the latter's move to the center has left The Nation as sole proprietor of the nation's left leaning soul. Excellent writers, strong voices, thoughtful but partisan writing.
- The Weekly Standard, also a print publication, comes with a strong conservative bent. It was started by William Kristol, and has gathered a small number of very influential voices on the right. Excellent opinion papers.
- The National Review wants to speak for the right where The Nation wants to speak for the left. Neither of them, of course, can speak for whole political wings which have, in the past few years, become more fractured than ever. The National Review speaks for the traditional right and gives it a strong voice.
Best Traditional Newspaper Sites in Political Reporting
These entries do not need to be introduced:-)
- The Christian Science Monitor, a non partisan online-only paper, represents what is best about objective American journalism, with good news coverage, strong analysis. and excellent writers and newsmen.
- The Wall Street Journal, the preeminent conservative organ in journalism, is the traditional voice of business. While the bulk of the paper focuses on business issues, the very strong Opinions section focuses primarily on politics, and has free range to engage the enemy. Its writers are influential, and carry strong ties with the most powerful conservative think tanks.
- The New York Times: Politics, left of center, is possibly the most influential newspaper in the world. Its site provides excellent, up to date coverage, with deep analysis and remarkable opinion pieces from major players in the political life of our country.
- The Washington Post, also left of center, is the primary rival of the NYT as the representative of the liberal elites, and manages to play equally with it in almost all domains. The Washington Post has an outstanding stable of top notch writers, great daily coverage, and penetrating analyses.
- The National Journal, a non partisan site, paper and magazine, focuses on Beltway issues. With less breadth on national news than the entries above, its focus on Washington politics is insightful, with frequent pieces of deep analysis.
Some Good Sources of Data on Political Sites
Beyond the present article in ConsumerPla.net, a few sources have published, in the past few years, relevant and interesting data, some of which has made its way into this presentation. The most influential is PC Magazine's top 20 political web sites (2008). CNET/ Webware published an excellent top 10 report in 2009 on the top 10 political sites of the time. The PD Report blog published, in 2008, a top 10 list. As usual, XMarks, with its top 10 fact checking sites, is the king of the hill. Top Political Sites keeps track of political sites demographics, while Right Wing News published, in 2009 its top 100 list of right and left wing sites. eBiz also keeps tracks, every month, of the best top political sites. The NYT published, in January 2011, an article on political blogs and the 2012 campaign trail. And, of course, the Webby Awards always bring in the yearly share of interesting, and sometimes surprising, sites.
This post is an updated version of a previous analysis.