On Republicans’ Twitter Dominance
This new survey pointed out by Gawker this morning doesn’t really tell us anything new – that Republicans outnumber Democrats on Twitter – that much was pointed out by the Los Angeles Times and others back in August.
But, in case this is news to you, here are some of the basics:
60% of the members of Congress with Twitter accounts are Republicans, and that fully half of all congressional Twitterers are House GOP members. The study, which was conducted in August of last year is limited to U.S. senators and House members, shows GOP pols out-Twittering Democrats in virtually every category: A whopping 67% of all congressional “Tweets” are written by Republicans.
First, I think this actually says very little about the House members who are themselves Twittering, because very, very few politicians with Twitter accounts actually operate them themselves; they’re generally managed by some communications staffer. That being said, the poll also found that GOP Twitterers also tend to have many more followers than their Democratic counterparts. I suppose I should be disappointed by this, but instead, it only looks like proof that Republicans are indeed only interested in stirring up people’s passions against their opponents, and care little about actual governance. All of the Republican tweets I see highlighted by others or featured in news stories are ones in which they’re bashing a Democrat or the White House, rarely are they sending out tweets to tout important legislation they helped pass.
For further insight on this issue, I went to an expert: my best friend, Elizabeth Brotherton, who co-writes the Heard on the Hill column for Roll Call, the newspaper of Capitol Hill. Beth covers congressional silliness for a living, y’all. Here are some of her thoughts:
While most Members of Congress on Twitter still use the new media tool in an old-fashioned sense (i.e., read my press release) several Members have really embraced it. Usually, these are Members who post their updates themselves, as opposed to designating a staffer to do it. Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) is probably the queen of Twitter, posting updates on everything from her Congressional work to her latest trips to Target. She was one of the first to embrace Twitter, and has millions of followers (and is, I should point out, a Democrat.) Others who use it well include Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), who just today posted a tweet on the trouble he had getting back to DC because of the storm; Rep. Ileana Ros Lehtinen (R-Fla.), who posts regular updates on her legislative priorities and her new granddaughter; and Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), a freshman member who has embraced Twitter to help raise his profile in Congress. …
I think one of the reasons there aren’t as many Democrats on Twitter is because when you are in charge, you need to maintain a sort of, sense of prestige. I think some Dems fear that Twitter will make them look less serious, and that is why you don’t see Harry Reid tweeting about his flight back from Nevada or where he went for dinner, for example. However, for politicians looking to be heard – either because they lack seniority or because they want back into power – Twitter is among the easiest ways to get your message out there. And Republicans certainly have done that.
And, to be sure, there are House Twitterers – both Democrat and Republican – who use the medium for acts of navel-gazing (gasp! on the Interwebs?!) There are also some useful politician tweets out there: Portland Mayor Sam Adams, for example, often takes to Twitter to update Portlanders about emergency weather conditions or construction projects that might hamper commutes.
The American Prospect’s Paul Waldman suggests that Republicans have jumped on the Twitter bandwagon because they’ve consistently been behind when it comes to using the Internet effectively:
It’s possible that the experience of being behind in most kinds of Internet organizing for the last few years made Republicans particularly eager to jump on board the latest Web 2.0 thing. So when that young staffer says, “Hey, we should totally get the Congressman on Twitter!”, the Congressman himself says, “Yes, I should be on this Twooter you speak of. Make it so!”
Waldman’s assessment ties in nicely with another Web usage survey pointed out by fellow True/Slanter J. Maureen Henderson, which found that teens are using Twitter far less than adults. There you have it. Nothing will chase young people away from something more than a group of mostly aging white men embracing it.
If you really want to be entertained by congressional tweets, I suggest you try any of the less authentic but decidedly more hilarious Twitter accounts that have been set up to imitate or mock House members. There’s @demonsheep, which sends out tweets intended to be from the possessed sheep in Senate candidate Carly Fiorina’s new ad, and @NudeScottBrown, an incarnate of the new senator from Massachusetts from his Cosmo centerfold days.