The Spin Factor

It’s Tough To Quit When You’re Ahead

Even after denouncing social media as a “public health risk” and starting to tweet less, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez still dominates when it comes to congressional Twitter engagement.

On April 14, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) announced that she was discontinuing use of her Facebook account and scaling back on all social media channels, describing social media as a “public health risk” that can lead to “increased isolation, depression, anxiety, addiction, [and] escapism.”

This begs the question: Has Ocasio-Cortez’s Twitter popularity declined along with her tweet volume? The Congresswoman tweeted 47 times last week, a little more than half her average volume of 84 tweets per week in 2019. But her tweets still snagged first, second and fourth place among Congress’ most-retweeted tweets last week, with 31,734, 30,859 and 27,820 retweets respectively. Her tweets also saw the highest average engagement per tweet, with an average 55,900 combined retweets and likes per tweet.

So when it comes to social media engagement, it seems that so far, less is more—or at least, just as much—for Ocasio-Cortez.

The Spin Factor

Unequal Tweeting on Equal Pay Day

Last week included two big political moments for women: Equal Pay Day and the House's reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act. But there was little party parity on Twitter about the topics.

There were two major moments related to gender and politics last week. Tuesday, April 2, was Equal Pay Day, a day designed to bring attention to the gender pay gap. Meanwhile, the House on Thursday, April 4, voted 263-158 to pass an extension of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).

But only one side of the aisle appeared to recognize these moments on Twitter. Democrats used “VAWA” 10 times as much as Republican: 333 tweets by Dems, compared with 36 by the GOP. Meanwhile, Democrats had 474 tweets mentioning the term “Equal” (discussing Equal Pay Day), while Republicans had a mere 13.

It’s worth noting that Democrats tweeted nearly twice as often as Republicans last week: 6,668 tweets to 3,641. But even taking overall tweet volume into account, Republicans were still significantly quieter on these issues.

The Spin Factor

March Madness Unites

Congress is notoriously partisan these days. But one topic seems to unite members of both parties: the NCAA March Madness Tournament.

Members of Congress are known for sticking to their sides of the aisle—and in large part, this past week was no different.

Democrats have continued to push for Special Counsel Robert Mueller and Attorney General William Barr to release Mueller’s investigation report to the public. At the same time, Republicans appeared to marshal Friday’s announcement as confirmation that there was no collusion between President Trump and the Russian government during the 2016 presidential campaign.

But on one topic, members of Congress came together in a truly bipartisan way: March Madness. Members of both parties took to Twitter to cheer on their local teams in the NCAA basketball tournament. Republicans members tweeted about it 45 times to Democrats’ 35 times—one of the more balanced topics we’ve seen since we began tracking these conversations.

The Spin Factor

Republicans Stay Quiet on Trump’s National Emergency

While Democratic members of Congress took to Twitter to discuss Trump’s declaration of a national emergency, Republicans stayed noticeably quiet.

When analyzing the Spin Factor’s (a.k.a. Congress’) Twitter activity over the last week, a stark party divide emerged around President Trump’s national emergency.

Democrats tweeted the phrase “national emergency” 68 times last week, while Republicans used the phrase just six times. Similarly, Democrats tweeted “emergency” 208 times, while Republicans only tweeted the term 22 times.

The top tweet by retweet came from Rep. Danny Davis, who retweeted this post, arguing that the water problem in Flint, Mich., should be declared a national emergency, rather than a border wall.

The Spin Factor

Party Reinforcement

Among the top 20 most-retweeted accounts by Congress over the last week, there was no overlap between Democrats and Republicans. Instead, each party focused on highlighting their “own.”

Congress showcased its tribal mentality last week, with Democrats and Republicans exclusively retweeting their “own.” For example, Republicans retweeted @WhiteHouse and @SenateGOP, while Democrats retweeted @HouseJudiciary and @NRDems. In fact, among the top 20 most-retweeted accounts by Congress, there is no overlap between Democrats and Republicans.

While Democrats had nearly twice as many retweets as Republicans (1,817 vs. 905), the GOP appears to be more consistent in the accounts they are retweeting. The White House’s Twitter handle nabbed more than 10% (95 retweets) of Republicans’ retweets over the last week, while Democrats retweeted a wider range of accounts, including individual lawmakers, committees and media outlets.

The Spin Factor

A Tale of Two Shutdowns

It’s not surprising that the partial government shutdown dominated Congress’ Twitter activity last week, but a breakdown of the top topics by party show some interesting divides in how lawmakers framed the issue.

The 35-day partial government shutdown was top of mind – and top of Twitter – for both Republicans and Democrats in Congress over the last week. But a closer look at the groups’ top topics show some interesting differences in the language they use…and their political strategy.

For example, “shutdown” was the top word used on Twitter by congressional Democrats, with 966 mentions in tweets. For Republicans, it was the third most-used word on Twitter but totaled only 164 mentions.

Meanwhile, the analysis shows that Democrats are using Twitter to blame President Trump for the shutdown, with “trumpshutdown” getting 355 mentions. On the other hand, the data indicate that Republicans are likely trying to place ownership with Democrats, with 156 mentions of their colleagues across the aisle.

Last week’s Twitter activity also uncovered an interesting takeaway in how each party frames the debate, with Democrats focusing more on the wall and Republicans concentrating on border security. Democrats had about 2.5 times as many tweets as Republicans mentioning the word “wall” (83 vs. 34), while Republicans had nearly 1.7 times as many tweets as Democrats mentioning the word “border” (210 vs. 127.)

The Spin Factor

New Congress, Who Dis?

The freshman class of the 116th Congress is coming out strong on Twitter. Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) were responsible for Congress’ five most-popular tweets this week. In fact, Ocasio-Cortez’s top tweet had more than twice as many retweets as President Trump’s most-popular tweet.

The 116th Congress convened last week, with a new freshmen class and plenty of tweets. All five of the most-popular tweets this week were penned by freshmen Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.)

Ocasio-Cortez was responsible for four of the five top tweets, which focused heavily on rebutting the GOP. Her top tweet had 158,415 retweets, more than twice as many retweets as President Trump’s most-popular tweet of the week, which nabbed 67,641 retweets.

Another indication that the freshman class was among the most active on Twitter this week? Topics like being “sworn in” topped issues like the government shutdown and funding for a border wall.

The Spin Factor

Shifting From Politics to Policy

Congress found common ground this week, as members on both sides of the aisle used Twitter to focus on legislative issues. But a closer look reveals that the party divide is still alive and well.

As the 115th Session of Congress nears an end, lawmakers appear to have a renewed focus on their jobs. Over the last few months, we’ve seen The Spin Factor use Twitter to activate their bases and discuss news of the day. But this week, we saw a clear shift from politics to policy.

The top 20 words used by congressional lawmakers over the last week include “bill,” “health,” “act,” “farmbill,” “support,” “bipartisan,” and “passed”, as well as words like “Trump,” “House,” “Senate” and “Congress.”

But despite a common legislative focus among Democrats and Republicans, drilling down further into the top terms shows that the party divide is still alive and well.

Republicans were focused on the Farm Bill (HR 2), which was approved by Congress last week and is headed to the President for his signature. Republicans in Congress tweeted about the Farm Bill 377 times, compared with 223 tweets from Democrats.

Meanwhile, congressional Democrats used Twitter to focus on health care and renew their vows to protect Obamacare. Democrats’ tweets over the last week included 475 “health” mentions, compared with just 60 from Republicans.

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Post-Election Blues (and Reds)

With the midterm elections behind them, Republican members of Congress appeared to distance themselves from Trump. But they weren’t shy about using Twitter to honor late President George H.W. Bush.

As we’ve discussed in past issues of The Conversation, Democrats in Congress tweet about President Trump far more than their Republican counterparts. But with the midterm elections behind them, the partisan divide has increased even further. Democrats tweeted about Trump a whopping 7.8 times more than Republicans during this period, with 490 tweets vs. 63 tweets about Trump.

However, in light President George H.W. Bush’s death over the weekend, Republican lawmakers took to Twitter to voice their condolences and highlight his legacy. When looking at the percentage of each party’s tweets about Bush, 10 percent of all Republican Congress members’ tweets discussed Bush, compared to five percent of Democratic lawmakers’ tweets.

The Spin Factor

Dems Out-Tweet GOP on Midterm Elections … With One Exception

Over the last week, Democrats were tweeting significantly more than Republicans about the recent midterm elections. The one exception? Florida.

It’s been almost two weeks since the Nov. 6 midterm elections, but the process of tallying results and post-election analysis has continued. In fact, the Mississippi Senate race will go to a runoff election on Nov. 27.

Therefore, it may not be surprising that Congress members continue to discuss the election on Twitter, but we’re seeing some interesting party divides.

Democrats in Congress tweeted about the “election” 55 times, compared to Republicans’ 37 tweets. The difference was even more stark when looking at tweets that mentioned the word “vote” – 119 vs. 47.

But Republicans have been more vocal on Twitter about one specific state: Florida. GOP Congress members had 33 tweets on “Florida,” compared with Democrats’ 27 tweets.

With Democrats Sen. Bill Nelson and Andrew Gillum both conceding their respective Florida races, we’ll be watching how the Spin Factor’s attention shifts towards Mississippi this month.