The last four years have made doomscrolling monsters of all of us — and, despite yesterday’s Twitter hack, that’s true for members of the US Congress, too.
A new study from the Pew Research Center shows that social media use among congressional representatives has nearly doubled since 2016 on both Twitter and on Facebook, where members of Congress are posting 56% more content than they were four years ago.
They’re also spending their social media time dragging one another. According to Pew, some of the most effective posts mention political opponents. For the Democrats, that means posting about Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, and, of course, President Donald Trump. On the Republican side, mentions of Rep. Adam Schiff and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi drive likes, shares, and comments.
There seems to be a partisan divide between social media platforms, Adam Hughes, associate director of research of Pew’s Data Labs, told BuzzFeed News; Democrats see higher numbers on Twitter, while Republicans get more engagement on Facebook.
“It may be the case that US Twitter users tend to be more Democratic-identifying than Facebook users,” Hughes said.
While Democrats post more often — gaining more engagement overall — an average Republican post gets more likes, comments, shares, and retweets than the average Democratic one.
“If you really just care about totals, Democrats get a lot more engaged,” Hughes said. “But if you look at the typical experience, the median number, Republicans are actually getting a little bit more.”
In addition to measuring engagement numbers, Pew looked at what members of Congress were posting about — and saw big differences between the parties.
“More than half of Democratic members mentioned the name ‘Breonna Taylor’ or terms like ‘racial injustice,’ but fewer than one in ten Republicans did,” a Pew blog post wrote.
One marked difference is the conversation surrounding Black Lives Matter protests, as a secondary analysis of the data has shown. Black members of Congress make up just 10% of elected officials — but among the governing body, they publish a quarter of the posts around BLM.
Democrats’ most distinctive terms were “equal pay,” “gun safety,” “LGBT,” and “workers’ rights.” By contrast, the most distinctive terms for Republicans were “pro-growth,” “bureaucrats,” “unborn,” and “illegal immigrant.”
Curiously, another distinctive term for Republicans was “enjoyed visiting,” mentioned by nearly 75% of lawmakers of that party.
That sits just above Republicans’ 25th-most-mentioned term: “Christ.”
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