As a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, Brookings describes itself as independent and non-partisan. The New York Times has referred to the organization as liberal, liberal-centrist, centrist, and conservative. The Washington Post has described Brookings as centrist and liberal. The Los Angeles Times described Brookings as liberal-leaning and centrist before concluding these labels made no sense. In 1977, Time Magazine described it as the "nation's pre-eminent liberal think tank". Newsweek has described Brookings as centrist while Politico has used the term "center-left". In addition, the organization is described as conservative by the media watchdog group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting.
Some liberals argue that despite its left-of-center reputation, Brookings foreign policy scholars were overly supportive of Bush administration policies abroad. Matthew Yglesias, for example, has pointed out that Brookings's Michael O'Hanlon frequently agrees with—and appears on stage with—scholars from conservative organizations such as the American Enterprise Institute, The Weekly Standard, and the Project for a New American Century. Similarly, Brookings fellow and research director Benjamin Wittes is a member of the conservative Hoover Institution's Task Force on National Security and Law. A number of Brookings scholars have served in Republican and Democratic administrations, including Mark McClellan, Ron Haskins and Martin Indyk.