The Spin Factor

Twitter’s Partisan Divide

Last week on Twitter, even Congress’ hashtags were partisan. Seven out of Congress’ top eight hashtags were used primarily, if not exclusively, by Democrats—including #fathersday.

Last week, Congress’ most-used hashtag was #renew911vcf. The call for a bill permanently renewing the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund was tweeted 254 times—244 of which were by Democrats. Three other top hashtags were used exclusively by Democrats: #forthepeople, #netneutrality, and #healthcareweekend.

Meanwhile, the most-used hashtag by Republicans was #flagday, with 60% of uses coming from the right.

It’s worth noting that congressional Democrats use hashtags more frequently than Republicans—but their differences of opinion remain clear.

The Spin Factor

Cruzing to Bipartisanship

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Ted Cruz found common ground on Twitter about banning former members of Congress from becoming lobbyists. Spoiler alert: The Twitterverse loved it.

A rare moment in Spin Factor Twitter unity occurred on May 30: Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) agreed on something. First, Ocasio-Cortez tweeted about banning former members of Congress from becoming lobbyists, to which Cruz replied with his agreement. Then, to top off the interaction, Ocasio-Cortez tweeted, “Let’s make a deal.”

So, how did the Twitterverse respond to these new strange bedfellows? Over the last week, Ocasio-Cortez’s four tweets with a Cruz mention received an average of 10,969 retweets—more than double her average retweet rate for tweets (69 total) without a Cruz mention. Meanwhile, Cruz’s tweets with an Ocasio-Cortez mention (seven total) received an average of 1,557 retweets—nearly double his average retweet rate for tweets (83 total) without an Ocasio-Cortez mention.

The takeaway? Bipartisanship boosts engagement.

The Spin Factor

Amashing Twitter Engagement

Michigan GOP Congress member Justin Amash saw his Twitter engagement jump by 6,652%, thanks to a 14-tweet thread where he became the first Republican lawmaker to call President Trump’s actions impeachable.

Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.), who doesn’t typically make an appearance among the top congressional tweeters, saw a significant jump in Twitter engagement last week, topping all of Congress.

Amash averages 929 favorites and 254 retweets per tweet, but last week his tweets saw an average of 63,813 favorites and 16,066 retweets.

That jump in engagement came after he became the first Republican lawmaker to call President Trump’s actions impeachable. In a 14-tweet thread discussing Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, Amash said that Attorney General William Barr “misrepresented” the report and that Trump has “engaged in impeachable conduct.”

The Spin Factor

Top Tweet Topics = Top of Docket?

A look at the social media attention lawmakers are giving to key issues could provide insight into what may get done this congressional session. Spoiler alert: Health care tops the list.

Congress – like much of Washington—has been very focused over the last couple of months on President Trump, the Mueller Report and, most recently, U.S. Attorney General William Barr. However, taking a step back to look at the social media attention lawmakers are giving to key policy issues, rather than politics, could foreshadow upcoming legislative priorities.

Health care received far and away the most issue attention from Congress, with 936 mentions on Twitter over the last week. Meanwhile, jobs and the economy (761 mentions) and climate (642 mentions) came in second and third respectively.

Members of Congress had only 110 Twitter mentions related to immigration over the last week, perhaps indicating a downgrade in priority.

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.)