Congress and social media have had a rocky relationship. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) had a popular Twitter account, including musings on everything from hitting a deer in his car to the History Channel, until his staff felt the need to rein it in and focus on policy. Rep. Anthony Weiner’s (D-NY) political downfall began with a tweet. During this year’s Super Bowl, Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN) accidently blasted out personal tweets to all of his followers.
The list of Twitter-based foibles goes on. One might think Capitol Hill should steer clear of fast-paced, two-way communication channels. But a new report finds use of social media channels like Twitter and Facebook by Congress members has increased dramatically.
The March report from the Congressional Research Service (CRS), available here, uses data from the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas in Austin to track social media use of members of the U.S. Congress. It finds that, of 541 members in both chambers, the number registered on Twitter jumped from 205 in 2009 (38 percent) to 426 in January 2013 (78.7 percent). Meanwhile, 87.2 percent of all members have a Facebook account.
CRS finds that the most prolific users of social media in Congress are Senate Republicans, who sent out an average of 1.53 tweets per day. They were followed by their Democratic colleagues, who tweeted an average of 1.49 tweets per day. In the House, Republicans averaged 1.23 tweets per day and their Democratic colleagues averaged 1.09 tweets per day. Senate Republicans also posted on Facebook most often, with an average of 0.84 posts a day. Continue reading “More Politicians Are Tweeting. But What Are They Saying?”