Political podcasts across the ideological spectrum

Written by:
July 18, 2018
Patrick Breitenbach // Flickr

20 political podcasts across the ideological spectrum

Political discourse on cable TV is great, as long as you're into talking heads in opposing camps yelling over each other while competing for the best sound bite during 30-second verbal shootouts. If you're trying to stay informed on the commute to work, political radio offers the options of an echo chamber on the right or an echo chamber on the left—each with more commercial breaks than content.

Podcasts, however, have changed all that.

The long-form structure of podcasts allows for real dialogue on complex issues without the censorship, time limitations, or oversight from corporations and advertisers that burden traditional news media. Whether you lean to the left or the right, whether you're libertarian or socialist, whether you're frustrated with the recitation of talking points on the cable news networks or simply looking to expand your mind while staying informed, there's a podcast for you.

Here are 20 of the most engaging, compelling, and popular podcasts from all over the political spectrum.

1 / 20
FiveThirtyEight Politics Podcast

FiveThirtyEight Politics Podcast

FiveThirtyEight is a political publication that stands out for its focus on statistics, polling, and analysis. Its podcast, called the "Politics Podcast," examines issues through the FiveThirtyEight lens of data, polling trends, and hard numbers.

2 / 20
The Weeds

The Weeds

"The Weeds" is an hour-long podcast that airs twice a week, produced by news and current events site Vox. As the name implies, "The Weeds" goes beyond the well-worn headlines and delves into the issues within the issues, which are discussed by pundits Ezra Klein, Sarah Kliff, and Matthew Yglesias.

3 / 20
Political Gabfest

Political Gabfest

Published by Slate, "Political Gabfest" is an informal, off-the-cuff, and often irreverent discussion between hosts John Dickerson, David Plotz, and Emily Bazelon. The podcast, which "The Late Show" host Stephen Colbert personally recommended to his audience, was also voted "Favorite Political Podcast" by iTunes listeners.

4 / 20
The Federalist Radio Hour

The Federalist Radio Hour

The writers and editors of The Federalist web magazine sit down to discuss everything from politics and religion to news and culture in the publication's namesake podcast. Hosted by Ben Domenech, the discussion features regular guests David Harsanyi, and Mollie Hemingway, who address "controversies in America from a contrarian point of view," according to the podcast's homepage.

5 / 20
Pod Save America

Pod Save America

Four former aides to President Barack Obama—Dan Pfeiffer, Jon Lovett, Tommy Vietor ,and Jon Favreau—host this popular podcast. The crew welcomes everyone from activists and journalists to comedians and politicians to join the discussion.

6 / 20
Left, Right and Center logo

Left, Right and Center

Pop culture, politics, and policy are always up for debate on "Left, Right and Center," which is produced by KCRW. The aptly named show features one left-leaning host, one conservative host, and one that acts as a neutral referee.

7 / 20
The Pollsters logo

The Pollsters

"The Pollsters" features two prominent polling professionals: Democrat Margie Omero and Republican Kristen Soltis Anderson. Although they sometimes interview outside experts, the pair generally spends  their podcast time interpreting polling data to put a fresh spin on the biggest stories of the week.

8 / 20
NPR Politics Podcast logo

NPR Politics Podcast

"NPR Politics Podcast" gives listeners the inside scoop on current events and news stories through candid conversations between National Public Radio's top political reporters. The show, one of the most popular politics podcasts on iTunes, also offers quick takes on daily news and roundups of the week's news.

9 / 20
The Daily logo

The Daily

Presented by the New York Times, "The Daily" is unique for its rapid-fire format. Unlike many long-form podcasts with several days between episodes, this podcast, hosted by Michael Barbaro, condenses the news into 20-minute chunks five days a week. The podcast is ready for listening by 6 a.m. each weekday morning.

10 / 20
On the Media logo

On the Media

"On the Media" examines the week's most important stories with a skeptical eye on how the media presented those stories. Dedicated to free speech, the First Amendment and government transparency, the podcast, as well as the award-winning radio show on which it's based, examines the hidden narratives embedded in the news stories, delivered to the American public 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

11 / 20
The Ben Shapiro Show logo

The Ben Shapiro Show

Ben Shapiro is one of the biggest names in the conservative world, and his podcast makes his irreverent and aggressive brand of talk radio available to listeners any time of day or night. Tune in to listen to his no-holds-barred political analysis.

12 / 20
The Majority Report logo

The Majority Report

On the side of the political spectrum opposite from Ben Shapiro is Sam Seder. His "The Majority Report" podcast is a 40-minute version of his live show by the same name, which includes interviews, commentary, and news roundups from a liberal point of view.

13 / 20
Common Sense With Dan Carlin logo

Common Sense With Dan Carlin

Unlike the majority of political personalities whose brands are firmly cemented in right or left identity, Dan Carlin is difficult to pigeonhole politically. His podcast, "Common Sense With Dan Carlin," is an outside-the-box political examination that, by Carlin's own admission, is certainly not for everyone—and eventually upsets everyone.

14 / 20
The Debrief logo

The Debrief

"The Debrief" is a podcast produced by global news giant Al Jazeera. Featuring in-depth analyses on everything from the war in Syria to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it's a one-stop shop for deep-dives into the most important political stories from the farthest corners of the Earth.

15 / 20
The Economist: Editor's Picks logo

The Economist: Editor's Picks

The Economist is not only one of the oldest publications in America, but also one of the most politically neutral—or at least unpredictable in terms of the people and policies it has supported over the years and generations. One of its podcasts, aptly named "The Week Ahead," examines the issues that are likely to shape the coming week.

16 / 20
What's News logo

What's News

"What's News" is produced by the iconic Wall Street Journal. The podcast, which is updated twice every day, mirrors the topics covered in the column of the same name, which includes news about financial markets, the economy, politics, and business.

17 / 20
Washington Week logo

Washington Week

With a half-century of history, "Washington Week" is the longest-running public events and news program on PBS. Like the show it mirrors, the "Washington Week" podcast stands out by exploring the most critical topical issues through discussions with journalists, as opposed to pundits.  

18 / 20
Politico's Nerdcast logo

Politico's Nerdcast

"Nerdcast" is delivered by seasoned Politico reporters, but the name comes from the fact that the show is made for and by political wonks. From the granular details of commission reports that most people will never read to in-depth analysis of the latest polling data, "Nerdcast" is all about the political minutiae that you can't get from scanning the headlines.

19 / 20
Ricochet Podcast logo

Ricochet Podcast

The flagship podcast of center-right news site Ricochet, the publication's namesake podcast is hosted by James Lileks, Peter Robinson, and Rob Long. They, along with a range of guests, discuss the most compelling issues of the day and week.

20 / 20
Reason Podcast logo

Reason Podcast

Escape the left vs. right, liberal vs. conservative political vortex with the "Reason" podcast. A product of the long-running libertarian publication Reason, the podcast is hosted by the publication's journalists, as well as a bevy of guests, who examine the news from the perspective of the publication's mantra: "free minds and free markets."  


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