12 Best Political Podcasts to Keep You Informed
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Struggling to keep up with the endless news cycle? Check out these political podcasts that provide a balanced view of what's happening in the world.
Keeping up with the news these days can feel like a full-time job. Luckily, political podcasts are here to help, and even better, you can listen to them for free. Podcasting has been growing in popularity, with an estimated 104 million Americans listening monthly. The number of political podcasts alone grew by 1,000 right after the 2016 election. But with more than two million podcasts across all topics to choose from, it can be hard to know what the best podcasts are.
It has also become harder to find nonpartisan sources of news, which has contributed to the divides in America. One way to gauge the bias level of your news source is to locate it on a media bias chart. It’s almost impossible to find completely unbiased content, though, so the best way to understand all angles of a story is to hear it from a variety of sources. We’re providing a list of podcasts that either mix multiple political viewpoints, include perspectives we don’t often hear from, or focus on a historical angle to give context to present-day issues (though if you want to take a deeper dive into the past, check out these history podcasts). One word of warning: Be prepared to be completely hooked.
Left, Right & Center
If you’re looking for a political podcast that offers multiple perspectives, KCRW’s Left, Right & Center is a great place to start. Host Josh Barro, a columnist for Insider, places himself as the “center” voice. He has moved along the political spectrum throughout his life and has been critical of both parties. In each episode, Barro invites subject-matter experts who represent views to the left and right of each issue for an in-depth discussion. The weekly show describes itself as a “civilized yet provocative confrontation over politics, policy, and pop culture,” and its tone serves as a welcome antidote to the one-sided political opinion shows prevalent on cable news.
Another political podcast that explores multiple views, The Argument prides itself on “strongly held opinions” and “open-minded debates.” Though it’s produced by the New York Times, which tends to lean left, this weekly podcast looks at the case for and against every issue it tackles. Launched in 2018 with multiple hosts representing the right, left, and center, the show announced a new host in November 2020: Jane Coaston. Coaston is a registered Libertarian and respected writer on American conservatism, and she brings on a rotating list of guests from across the political spectrum to discuss issues like D.C. statehood, policing in America, and nuclear power.
How to Citizen
Baratunde Thurston is a best-selling author and Emmy-nominated host who specializes in holding space for complex and nuanced conversations. Political news can so often leave us feeling overwhelmed and powerless, but How To Citizen with Baratunde does the opposite, offering hope and a list of positive actions we can take with each episode. A warm and inclusive host, Thurston interprets “citizen” as a verb and seeks to reimagine a more connected society along with guests and listeners of the show. He invites us all to take responsibility for bettering our communities and the world and gives us resources to reflect, become more informed, and participate.
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The NPR Politics Podcast
If you want to keep up with current events on a daily basis, National Public Radio offers a roundup of political news every weekday. Each episode is between 15 and 30 minutes, making it perfect listening for a short commute or while you make dinner. Truly objective political reporting is hard to come by, but The NPR Politics Podcast does a great job of leaving opinion and speculation to the listeners. In fact, on the AllSides Media Bias Chart, NPR News falls right in the center.
Stay Tuned with Preet
For listeners interested in the legal side of news stories, CAFE’s Stay Tuned with Preet breaks down complex topics with special guests and its host, Preet Bharara. Bharara served as U.S. Attorney from 2009 to 2017, then became a faculty member at the NYU School of Law. His years of experience and ability to teach legal concepts in an understandable way make this political podcast both eye-opening and enjoyable. At the top of each episode, Bharara answers legal questions sent in by listeners, then discusses the news with special guests. Recent episodes have included conversations about the Supreme Court, the Department of Justice, and an in-depth series on the Derek Chauvin trial.
Not every episode of Self Evident focuses on politics, but as anti-Asian hate crimes continue, it’s particularly important for us to better understand the issues facing Asian Americans. Hosted by Cathy Erway, a James Beard Award-winning writer, Self Evident gives voice to stories that are rarely told. Episodes shine a light on different Asian American communities, including “South Asian, South East Asian, East Asian, Central Asian, and multi-ethnic communities,” as stated on their website. The podcast seeks to explore questions like “Who is the American Dream for?” and “Whose story is really being told?” Two particularly relevant episodes to check out are “Unpacking Pandemic Racism” and “Hate Goes Viral.”
In the Thick
In the Thick describes itself as “a podcast about politics, race, and culture from a POC perspective.” Though race is one of the most heated topics in the United States, few are willing or able to approach it. With a diverse panel of guests, In the Thick digs deep where many other political podcasts only graze the surface. The biweekly show is cohosted by Maria Hinojosa and Julio Ricardo Varela. Hinojosa also serves as an anchor and executive producer for Latino USA (winner of a Peabody Award) and the PBS television show America by the Numbers. Varela is the editorial director of Futuro Media. Among the many topics, episodes this year have tackled Biden’s first 100 days, the history of civil rights, and vaccination equity.
“Every headline has a history,” Throughline states in its show description. Indeed, every current event and trending story can be better understood by a deep dive into its history, and Throughline offers exactly that. This hour-long weekly podcast is cohosted by Rund Abdelfatah and Ramtin Arablouei, two journalists and NPR producers. Each well-researched episode allows listeners to better situate issues in historical context and makes even the most opaque subjects more understandable. Recent topics have included the plight of the Uyghur people in China, the Armenian genocide and its reverberations, and an overview of James Baldwin’s work. If this one caught your attention, you’ll also want to read these books for understanding race in America.
The Road to Now
Another podcast that explores historical context, The Road to Now is cohosted by Benjamin Sawyer, a professor of history at Middle Tennessee State University, and Bob Crawford, a founding member of the Avett Brothers. The Road to Now‘s tone is more laid-back and conversational than most political podcasts. The two hosts often invite friends to be guests on the show, like historian Louis Woods, also from MTSU, and Joe Kwon, cellist for the Avett Brothers. Other guests include politicians, journalists, and artists, making for eclectic political conversations that explore multiple sides and timelines of issues like voting rights, financial bubbles, militias, and more.
The United States of Anxiety
Here’s one more podcast that uses history to help us understand current events and look to the future. The United States of Anxiety broadcasts live every Sunday evening on WNYC. The podcast is a slightly edited version of this live show, streamlined to come in at just under an hour. Host Kai Wright was also one of the hosts for WNYC’s Indivisible, a live radio call-in show that ran for the first 100 days of the Trump Administration and aimed “to invite Americans to come together across divides.”
Hosts Sarah Stewart Holland and Beth Silvers may not agree on politics, but they do agree that they want to understand each other’s views and treat each other with respect. In 2019, they co-authored the book I Think You’re Wrong (But I’m Listening): A Guide to Grace-Filled Political Conversation, and they’ve been co-hosting the Pantsuit Politics podcast since November 2015. New episodes come out every Tuesday and Friday and have recently covered topics like vaccines around the world, the state of the economy, and leadership within the Republican Party.
Government for Grownups
Host Sharon McMahon has garnered a reputation as “America’s Government Teacher” on Instagram, where she’s amassed more than half a million followers. A former high school government and law teacher, McMahon’s goal is to fight misinformation and conspiracy with unbiased facts and sometimes humor. Her Instagram videos feature friendly, respectful, nonpartisan explanations of various aspects of government that help shed light on the news. On her brand-new podcast, which launched in May 2021, she welcomes guests who offer a range of political viewpoints and engages them in fact-based conversation. When you need a break from politics, decompress with the best comedy podcasts and the best new fiction podcasts you’ll obsess over.
- Edison Research: “The Infinite Dial”
- Vice: “Podcasts are becoming the left’s right-wing talk radio”
- Podcast Insights: “2021 Podcast Stats & Facts (New Research From Apr 2021)”
- AllSides: “AllSides Media Bias Chart”