Age, Party Affiliation Guide Congress’ Twitter Use
More than anything else, a federal lawmaker’s age and political party influence his or her Twitter activity, two researchers have found.
Adam Brown, an assistant professor of political science at Brigham Young University, and David Lassen, a doctoral student in political science at the University of Wisconsin, made that discovery in trying to answer this question: Are members of Congress more likely to use Twitter if they’re vulnerable to losing their seats in the next election? Their answer: No.
Instead, a U.S. senator or representative is most likely to embrace Twitter if he or she is a relatively young, tech-savvy Republican.
The researchers said Republicans have a larger majority on Twitter than they do on Capitol Hill. Why? Partly because young lawmakers like U.S. Rep. Jason Chaffetz, a Republican from Utah, coached other GOP members of the House about using Twitter in the early days of the social networking service, according to the researchers.
Nonetheless, Democrats do boast some Twitter stars on Capitol Hill, the researchers said. Brown cited U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, a Democrat from Missouri, as one of the best lawmakers at interacting with constituents through Twitter.
In the Twitter study, “what we measured was an exploratory period where members of Congress were taking a look and dabbling with the technology,” Lassen said. “Now, the bigger question is how they are using it instead of if they are using it.”
About three-fourths of the 535 members of Congress now use Twitter, the researchers said, but many of those accounts are run by staff members.
“The actual members of Congress tweet about things like hamburgers and football games,” Brown said. “When it’s staff, the messages are all links to speeches and interviews. The strategy is to simply help the local press stay on top of the schedule.”
Brown and Lassen will publish their research in an upcoming edition of Social Science Computer Review. Lassen graduated from BYU.