Washington-area think tanks have evolved beyond the scope of Beltway insiders. Today, many of these institutions have expanded towards a “do tank” role by using outreach tools such as blogs, social media, and even grassroots mobilization. They have come to realize that in order to stay relevant and participate in the many conversations happening on matters of policy and advocacy, they need to establish a much broader appeal.

So, if think tanks do matter, which institutions are the ones we’re paying attention to?

Earlier this year, FPRI’s Global Go-To Think Tank provided a report ranking global institutions by influence with The Brookings Institution at  the top of their list. From our experience at Linktank, we’ve learned that influence alone doesn’t convey the full extent of an organization’s capacity to affect policy or culture. We wanted a popularity contest.

The Linktank team reviewed our vast database of local organizations and did an analysis based on Alexa web data to determine which think tanks generate the largest interest. We looked only at independent organizations, not affiliated with an academic institution, and with a presence in Greater Washington DC.

The top ten results, in the slideshow below, surprised us. Brookings, decidedly most influential think tank according to the FPRI report, did not reach the top position in our list. Politics appears to have played a hand in building larger grassroots interest, particular from some of the emerging think tanks, but there are still plenty of venerable institutions who can claim some of the top spots.

View the full list of the 50 most popular think tanks in Washington >


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