GOP trumps Dems on social media, for better or for worse

Former Republican Sen. Scott Brown of Massachusetts
Former Republican Sen. Scott Brown of Massachusetts
File photo by Steven Senne/AP

Senate Republicans are the most prolific politicians when it comes to social media, a new report finds.

GOP Senators tweet an average of 1.53 times per day to Senate Democrats’ 1.49 tweets a day, the Congressional Research Service reports. House Republicans beat out House Democrats in tweet frequency, too.

Senate Republicans also post to Facebook the most, followed by House Republicans.

“In 2012, 56% of Twitter-registered members [of Congress] were Republican and 44% were Democrats,” according to the CRS study, which measured members of the 112th Congress’s use of Facebook and Twitter over two months (August and October 2011), and the adoption of both platforms as of January 2012.

CRS does not explain why more Republicans have Twitter accounts than Democrats, nor does it indicate if politicians are in fact using social media to interact with their constituents (such as responding to messages or comments).

It does find that most legislators’ tweets and Facebook posts are “position-taking” statements–those in which a politician takes a stance on a policy or a political issue.

But when it comes to social media, why would either party want to hold the trump card?

CRS says Twitter and Facebook allow politicians to “communicate directly with constituents (and others) in a potentially interactive way that is not possible through mail or e-mail. For members [of Congress] and their staff, the ability to collect and transmit real time information to and from constituents could be influential for issue prioritization, policy decisions, or voting behavior.”

But unfiltered, real-time communication hasn’t always worked to a politician’s benefit: remember Anthony Weiner’s lewd photo scandal? And while that’s an extreme example, others are almost as cringe-worthy:

I don’t like this coffee. If this cream were any richer and whiter it’d be carrying a liberal protest sign.

— Rep. Steve Stockman (@SteveWorks4You) March 25, 2013

Fred and I hit a deer on hiway 136 south of Dyersville. After I pulled fender rubbing on tire we continued to farm. Assume deer dead

— ChuckGrassley (@ChuckGrassley) October 26, 2012

I’m tired of looking and feeling fat. Maybe talking about it publicly will keep me on track as I try to be more disciplined.Off to the gym.

— Claire McCaskill (@clairecmc) May 12, 2011

And former Sen. Scott Brown deleted a series of strange tweets that he blamed on his phone. Butt dialing: awkward. Career-crushing? Not yet.

In the age of the over-share, Democrats may be on to something: Let ‘em tweet.

The Congressional Research Service report was conducted in conjunction with the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas in Austin. It was made public by Steven Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists.

GOP trumps Dems on social media, for better or for worse