Pew: Congress Boosts Social Media Profile

President Trump may have taken to Twitter with a vengeance, literally, but the legislative branch has also expanded its social media presence big time.

And while social media platforms have been under severe scrutiny from both Democrats and Republicans, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis, members of Congress tweet almost twice as often (up 81%), have almost three times as many followers and are retweeted six times more on average compared with a similar point in 2016. 

On Facebook, the typical legislator has 48% more posts and 50% more followers than in 2016. 

Democrats have on average 17,000 more followers than Republicans and tweet almost twice as much in a month (130 vs. 73 for Republicans).

Members of the current Congress (the 116th) may have issues with social media platforms over things like political ads and privacy and content moderation, but they have over 2,000 active official campaign and personal accounts on Facebook and Twitter, with a collective quarter-billion-plus followers.

Those accounts generate over 100,000 tweets and Facebook posts among them. 

One big social media distinction between parties is what terms get tweeted and posted

One big social media distinction between parties is what terms get tweeted and posted

The legislative posts definitely track with the issue interests of the respective parties (see chart above).

For example, 96% of Democrats have posted the phrase “equal pay” in the past five years while only 13% Republicans have done so. The two most popular terms for Republicans are "pro-growth" (85% of Republican, only 12% of Democrats) and “bureaucrats” (85% of Republicans but only 18% of Democrats).

To come up with those stats, researchers looked at "every Facebook post and tweet created by every official and unofficial account maintained by every voting member of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives between Jan. 1, 2015, and May 31, 2020. That amounted to 1.5 million Facebook posts and 3.3 million tweets.  

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.