With election time making its way to national consciousness once again, political science major David Lassen and Professor Adam Brown of Brigham Young University tackled a question interesting to anyone wondering how social media influences human behavior (especially where politics are concerned): Are members of Congress more likely to use Twitter if they are vulnerable to losing their seat in the next election?
It’s no secret that using Twitter is popular among a large number of people in Congress — three-fourths of all members, in fact. And while many of these Twitter accounts are delegated to staff on behalf of the congressman or congresswoman in question, it’s usually easy to tell the difference.
“The actual members of Congress tweet about things like hamburgers and football games,” Brown says. “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.”
Right now, Republicans seem to represent a majority of Congress members who are Twitter savvy, though Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri is a Democrat who stands out as being notably adept at using Twitter to interact with constituents.
The team arrived at the conclusion that electoral vulnerability in no way changed the way that members of Congress chose to communicate with their constituency through tweets. More influential factors in determining the likelihood of their using Twitter are age (not so surprising), and how encouraging their party is about the use of Twitter.
“What we measured was an exploratory period where members of Congress were taking a look and dabbling with the technology,” Lassen says. “Now the bigger question is how they are using it instead of if they are using it.”
Does your congressional representation utilize Twitter — or other kinds of social media — to interact with you? Do you think that this is a fair replacement for the old method of writing your congressperson a letter? Drop us a line in the comments!