Religion & Liberty Online

Acton Institute ranks as a global think tank leader in 2020 report

The Acton Institute is not only one of the world’s most influential thought leaders, according to a new report, but our annual Acton University ranks as the best conference presented by any think tank in the world that consistently supports a free economy.

The University of Pennsylvania released its “2020 Global Go To Think Tank Index Report” on Thursday. Once again, Acton ranked well in the categories with which it has become most closely identified.

This year, the report feted Acton with awards in five separate categories.

In “Top Social Policy Think Tanks,” the category Acton values most dearly, the report rated the Acton Institute among the world’s elite institutions. In 2020, the Acton Institute ranked fifth among organizations that defend the free economy, or 18th globally – behind the Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute but ahead of the Manhattan Institute and the UK-based Civitas.

Acton finished as number one among market-oriented think tanks for “Best Think Tank Conference,” or in the top 25 globally, ahead of the Council on Foreign Relations.

The report ranked the Acton Institute ninth in the world for “Best Advocacy Campaign” – third among free-market think tanks.

Despite competing with think tanks of much greater size and funding, the Acton Institute rated in the top third of the all “Top U.S. Think Tanks” in 2020 and seventh out of groups that defend free enterprise – behind the Hudson Institute (14) and the Mercatus Center (23) but ahead of the Goldwater Institute (90).

Top free-market think tanks outside the United States include the Fraser Institute (Canada, 14), Transparency International (Germany, 53), the Adam Smith Institute (UK, 56), and the Institute of Economic Affairs (UK, 66).

The United States has more think tanks than any other single country, with 2,203 – nearly as many as all of Europe (2,932). There are 29 think tanks in Michigan alone.

Globally, the balance inside the world of ideas has tilted toward the East over the last year. In 2019, India had the second greatest number of think tanks, 509. But in 2020, China displaced its neighbor: India now ranks third, with 612 think tanks, while China has 1,413 think tanks associated with Beijing.

James G. McGann of the Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program (TTCSP) at the university’s Lauder Institute wrote the report with the assistance of hundreds of members who joined the Expert Panels. McGann noted that the team conducted research for this year’s report, as it had in previous years, “without the benefit of field research, a budget or staff.”

The report reflects the Acton Institute’s growing recognition as the world’s premier think tank addressing the relationship between markets and morality, especially within an ecumenical religious context. Your kind donation helps us improve our impact and efficacy this year and in the years to come.

Rev. Ben Johnson

Rev. Ben Johnson (@therightswriter) is an Eastern Orthodox priest and served as Executive Editor of the Acton Institute (2016-2021), editing Religion & Liberty, the Powerblog, and its transatlantic website. He has extensively researched the Alt-Right. Previously, he worked for LifeSiteNews and, where he wrote three books including Party of Defeat (with David Horowitz, 2008). His work has appeared at, National Review, The American Spectator, The Guardian, Daily Caller, National Catholic Register, Spectator USA, FEE Online, RealClear Policy, The Blaze, The Stream, American Greatness, Aleteia, Providence Magazine, Charisma, Jewish World Review, Human Events, Intellectual Takeout,, Issues & Insights, The Conservative,, and The American Orthodox Institute. His personal websites are and His views are his own.