Fourth Branch

When Tragedy Strikes, Twitter Looks to Journalists

There was a dramatic increase in journalists’ average retweets per tweet on Saturday, the day of the synagogue attack.

For most of the past week, Washington, D.C., journalists had a low average retweet-per-tweet count. But that changed Saturday in the wake of the Pittsburgh synagogue attack.

On Saturday, the group had approximately 196 tweets related to the shooting—nearly half of the total tweets that day. The information clearly resonated with audiences, as there were nearly 800 retweets per tweet.

Interestingly, the media’s tweets about other hot topics earlier in the week, such as the bombs mailed to anti-Trump leaders, did not receive nearly as much engagement.

President's Friends

Backing Up the President

The accounts President Trump follows on Twitter are backing him up when it comes to criticism of the caravan of Central American migrants heading toward the U.S.-Mexico border. In fact they are tweeting about the caravan four times more often than Congress.

As President Trump’s criticism of a caravan of Central American migrants heading toward the U.S.-Mexico border increased, the users he follows on Twitter – including @DiamondandSilk and @IngrahamAngle – backed him up.

President Trump’s friends tweeted about the migrant caravan 80 times this past week, compared with just 59 tweets from all 535 members Congress combined. Four percent of the tweets by Trump follows mentioned the word “caravan,” compared with 0.86 percent of tweets by congressional members.

Looking more closely at Congress, Republicans tweeted about the caravan nearly three times as often as Democrats.

Fourth Branch

New York Times Not Seen as “Failing” by Media Peers

Despite Trump’s best efforts to disqualify the New York Times, the publication’s reporters continue to drive the Twitter conversation among Washington, D.C., journalists and pundits.

We know President Trump is not a fan of the New York Times. He’s referred to the publication as the “failing New York Times” several times. But it seems the journalism community disagrees.

Among Washington, D.C., journalists and pundits, five out of the eight most retweeted accounts this past week were New York Times reporters, including Maggie Haberman with 46 retweets, Jonathan Martin with 31 retweets, Peter Baker with 31 retweets, Eric Lipton with 20 retweets, and Alex Burns with 19 retweets.

Five of Haberman’s retweets, 11 of Martin’s retweets, seven of Baker’s retweets, five of Lipton’s retweets and seven of Burns’ retweets were from other New York Times reporters. New York Times reporters seem to have each other’s Twitter backs, but the majority of their retweets came from other Washington, D.C., reporters.

Tweeter in Chief

Doubling Down on Retweets

On average, about 86% of President Trump’s tweets are original and about 14% are retweets. This past week, the president’s retweet rate more than doubled, jumping to 31%. Is this week an outlier or are we seeing a new presidential Twitter strategy?

Does President Trump have a new Twitter strategy? The president’s retweet rate more than doubled this past week.

Prior to last week, the Tweeter in Chief’s average retweet rate was 14.2% (based on roughly 900 previous tweets). This past week, that figure jumped to 31.8%, with 29 of his 93 tweets being retweets.

Hurricane Michael likely drove the higher retweet rate, as the president retweeted @FEMA and @NHC_Atlantic four times each, and also retweeted handles like @FLGuard and @FLGovScott.

Interestingly, the president continued his trend of retweeting himself this week, with three retweets for @realDonaldTrump.

Spin Factor

The Blue Wave Hits High Tide …. on Twitter at Least

While we’re used to congressional Democrats and Republicans operating in two very different Twitter-verses, it’s still surprising that with the midterm elections just three weeks away, Democrats are tweeting about the elections and encouraging their followers to vote more than 2.5 times as often as Republicans

This week, congressional Democrats turned to Twitter with their “Get Out the Vote” messages. Nearly 160 tweets from Dems mentioned either “election” or “vote,” most of them encouraging their followers to head to the polls in November. Interestingly, Democrats tweeted about the midterms more than 2.5 times as often as Republicans.

While it often seems congressional Democrats and Republicans are operating in two very different

Twitter-verses, it’s surprising to see such tweet disparities when it comes to the upcoming elections.

Perhaps less surprising was Republicans’ near silence on the United Nations’ massive climate change report, which was released last Monday. Democrats in Congress had 122 tweets that mentioned the word “climate,” compared with only three tweets from Republicans.

Republicans instead focused their Twitter activity on Hurricane Michael, with twice as many tweets as Democrats, and calls to have Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein testify before the Senate.

Fourth Branch

Public vs. Peer Popularity

Ezra Klein, founder and editor-at-large of Vox, is responsible for four of the five most popular tweets from D.C. journalists and pundits in the past week. But when we look at who D.C. journalists and pundits are retweeting, Klein is nowhere to be found.

Four out of the five most retweeted tweets from D.C. journalists and pundits in the past week came from Ezra Klein, founder and editor-at-large of Vox. Klein saw a big spike in retweets in the past week. His tweets average about 815 retweets, but that number jumped to 1,595 this week.

Sam Stein, politics editor at The Daily Beast and an MSNBC contributor, was the only other journalist to make the list. All five of the most popular tweets from D.C. journalists and pundits were about the Ford and Kavanaugh Senate hearings.

Interestingly, when we look at the most frequently retweeted accounts by D.C. journalists and pundits, Klein is nowhere to be found. His peers retweeted him just seven times. In comparison, Burgess Everett – a Politico congressional reporter – had 73 retweets from D.C. journalists and pundits.

The Takeaway? Klein’s tweets are resonating with the general public, but not so much with the D.C. media.

Tweeter in Chief

New Week, Same Trump

President Trump had a nearly 29% drop in Twitter activity over the last week. But although the frequency of his tweets declined, his focus on Twitter – himself – remains consistent.

Despite the heavy news coverage last week of the Senate hearings on Brett Kavanaugh, President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, as well as the United Nations Security Council meeting, the president’s Twitter activity continued to center around himself.

The POTUS’s top two words used on Twitter were “president” and “trump,” tweeted 12 and eight times respectively. While Trump did mention “Kavanaugh” five times on the social media platform, none of his tweets mentioned Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, who testified Thursday about an alleged sexual assault by Kavanaugh.

It’s also worth noting that Trump may have been a bit preoccupied last week, as his tweet activity declined significantly. The president tweeted 43 times over the past week, compared to an average of 60.3 tweets per week over the last year.

Spin Factor

Kavanaugh Got Republicans’ Tongues

While last week’s Senate hearings on Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh captured the attention of much of Washington, D.C. … and Twitter, congressional Republicans stayed relatively mum. In fact, they tweeted more about taxes than Kavanaugh or Ford.

It seems Congress is divided even when it comes to tweeting about congressional activity.

Last week’s Senate hearings on Brett Kavanagh’s Supreme Court nomination quickly became the focus of Washington, D.C., the media and even Saturday Night Live.

Congressional Democrats were outspoken on Twitter, mentioning Ford and Kavanaugh in 8.6% and 8.7% of their tweets respectively over the last week.

But Republicans were comparatively quiet, mentioning Ford and Kavanaugh in just 1.5% and 3.9% of their tweets respectively. Perhaps even more telling is that Republicans mentioned their bread-and-butter topic taxes more than either term, with 148 mentions, or 4.2% of all tweets.

President's Friends

Making Dad Proud

Donald Trump Jr. has clearly learned a few Twitter lessons from his father. And his followers have noticed.

President Donald Trump’s first-born, Donald Trump Jr., took a page from his father’s Twitter playbook this past week. Among the 47 accounts Trump Sr. follows on Twitter, Trump Jr. had eight of the top 10 most-retweeted tweets. Most of these tweets either defended the president or attacked actions by the Obama Administration and Democrats, just like his dad’s most-popular tweets.

The similarities don’t stop there. Trump Jr. tweeted 114 times in the past week, while Trump Sr. tweeted 117 times. And, Trump Sr. retweeted himself six times, while his son retweeted himself 10 times. Like father, like son…

Spin Factor

A Partisan Hurricane?

Hurricane Florence was most-tweeted subject among Republicans in Congress this past week. Among Democrats? That title still goes to Trump.

As Hurricane Florence made landfall in the U.S. late last week, it gained the Twitter attention of Republicans in Congress, but Democrats remained focused on a different type of storm.

“Trump” and “president” were two of the most frequently tweeted words by Democrats in Congress over the last week, with 304 and 165 tweets respectively. Meanwhile, they had 156 tweets that mentioned the hurricane.

On the other hand, congressional Republicans’ Twitter activity was focused on Hurricane Florence, with “hurricane” (199 tweets), “#hurricaneflorence” (157 tweets) and “#florence” (157 tweets) leading their Twitter dialogue. Republicans in Congress had only 71 tweets that mentioned “Trump.”

One reason for the congressional Twitter divide this week? Red states were among those most affected by Hurricane Florence.