Table of Contents
Page Introduction 2 Methodology 4 Executive Summary 6 A Look at the Parts 7 U.S. Senate 7 U.S. House 13 Conclusion 16 Table of Figures Figure 1 – Comparison of Number of Republicans and Democrats Using Twitter 7 Figure 2 – Comparison of Number of Tweets Sent by Party – U.S. House of Representatives 8 Figure 3 – U.S. Senate Comparison of Followers by Party – With McCain Factor 9 Figure 4 – U.S. Senate Comparison of Followers by Party – Minus McCain Factor 9 Figure 5 – U.S. Senate Comparison of Influence and Clout by Party 11 Figure 6 – U.S. House Party Comparison, Followers/Following 13 Figure 7 – U.S. House Party Comparison of Influence and Clout by Party 15 Figure 8 – U.S. House – Number of Tweets Sent by Party 16 Table of Tables Table 1: U.S. Senate Democrats Overview 17 Table 2: U.S. Senate Republicans Overview 18 Table 3: U.S. House of Representatives Democrats Overview 19 Table 4: U.S. House of Representatives Republican Overview 20 Table 5: Number of Tweets – Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives 22 Table 6: Number of Tweets – Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives 23 About the Author 27 i
There are many historic “firsts” attached to the presidential campaign of 2008. One that is notable is that the
2008 election marked the first time that social media had achieved such a level of utilization among the
electorate that it became an important means for candidates to reach out to constituents. Facebook,
MySpace, text messaging, and Twitter all became platforms by which candidates could send their messages
directly to their constituencies.
In fact, the role and capacity of social media among the electorate in general is of increasing importance. In
June 2008, the Pew Internet and American Life Project issued a report that demonstrated the utility of the
Internet among voters; it found that 46 percent of Americans had used the Internet or text messaging to get
news about the 2008 campaign. A full 35 percent said that they had watched campaign videos and 10 percent
said they had used Facebook or MySpace to get information about the candidates.1
The ability of the presidential candidates to use these media varied. That may be reflective of their savvy, or
the imbalance in numbers may have reflected the overall popularity of one candidate over another — or it
may have been a combination of the two factors. In any case, on November 3, 2008, the day before the
election, the numbers told a distinct communications story: Facebook MySpace YouTube Twitter McCain Obama McCain Obama McCain Obama McCain Obama2
2,032,993* 18,413,110* 4,603
Undoubtedly, the advantage in most, if not all, categories of social and digital media favored Barack Obama,
who the following day was elected the 44th President of the United States.
It is safe to say that for the election of 2010, the role of the Internet in general, and digital and social media in
particular, is bound to increase — as a platform not only for sending and spreading messages, but also as one
where money can be raised by candidates. This is evidenced by the fact that many elected officials, as well as
aspirants, have begun regularly utilizing blogs and creating Facebook pages in order to attract a following and
to serve as message platforms, bypassing perhaps uninterested mainstream media.
Many factors contribute to the growing influence of social media. There are new and distinct forces that are
shaping a new communications environment, as more and more people turn to the Internet and to social
media as a means of getting and spreading news. What are these forces?
People want to get the particular news that they are interested in from sources they trust — they do
not want what is packaged and broadcast, but rather want to seek out their own news of interest.
People want to participate in the news — they want to spread it to others and discuss it.
People want speed and utility.
1 See “The Internet and the 2008 Election”, Pew Internet and American Life Project, June 15, 2008 –
2 See “Snapshot of Presidential Candidate Social Networking Stats: Nov 3, 2008” on Web Strategy by Jeremiah Owyang – http://www.web-
strategist.com/blog/2008/11/03/snapshot-of-presidential-candidate-social-networking-stats-nov-2-2008/ 2 |
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Of all digital and social media, Twitter is perhaps best positioned to respond to these forces. Twitter, more
technically known as microblogging, provides users with 140-character updates that can include an Internet
address that has been conveniently shrunk to allow the conveyance of both a message and a link. It can be
updated frequently and sent out to many followers who are predisposed to receive that message; in fact, they
for that message. They can read it and, if they like, send it along to their own followers on Twitter,
creating an effective echo chamber for one’s original message. Twitter allows a communicator, therefore, not
only to tap into one’s own constituency, but also — by virtue of the fact that people can send on the message
or “re-tweet” it — reach the friends of friends, and very, very quickly.
In fact, if a person using Twitter can manage to attract 2,000 “followers,” the next generation of followers —
or those who follow that group of 2,000 — can actually number in the millions. That means that if a message is
sent out on Twitter to the 2,000 followers and the sender asks that the recipients re-tweet the message, it is
actually possible to reach a several more thousand people within a few moments. Nothing, short of
instantaneous broadcasting, has the potential to reach so many people so quickly. But unlike a live broadcast,
the tweet can live on and on, being sent from one user to another, and carry a link that drives recipients back
to Web sites where they can find out more information or, if requested, donate money.
Twitter was invented in March 2006 and began as its own company in April 2007. By February 2009, the
service was logging over 7 million users and clocked a staggering annual growth rate of 1382 percent.3
Growth occurred not only in quantity but also in quality, with Twitter seeing the presence of more and more
mainstream entities. Today, Twitter users include many media, including Reuters and CNN to name a few;
government agencies, including NASA, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Health and
Human Services (HHS); and includes as many as 99 members of Congress.
In addition, there have been a number of applications built around Twitter — more so than any other social
medium. For example, Tweetdeck and Hootsuite both allow a user to track multiple aspects of Twitter. There
are applications to use Twitter from a smart phone, and tools have been developed that assess the influence
and impact of those who tweet — one of which was used in this assessment.
As the nation begins the 2010 election cycle, this paper will look at how well members of Congress are utilizing
Twitter. Who is most active in building influence and clout through use of this medium? And who stands
poised to reach voters through the use of a medium that offers speed and the ability to reach so many, so fast,
with messages that can be picked up and carried by willing and able constituencies?
Does being great at communicating via Twitter mean that you are going to win your election? Probably not.
Is Twitter activity an indicator of which party will win more seats? No. But the successful use of Twitter as an
emerging communications tool is an indication of the ability to communicate well — to reach out to
constituents, engage them, and motivate them.
Twitter is not an election predictor; it is, however, a communications barometer. It is emblematic of how well,
how comprehensively, and how often elected officials are communicating. And effective communications is a
key to winning elections — of that there is no doubt. Special thanks to Melissa Hite whose enthusiasm and hard work helped this project immensely.
3 See “Twitter Now Growing at Staggering 1382 Percent,” Mashable – The Social Media Guide, March 16, 2009 –
http://mashable.com/2009/03/16/twitter-growth-rate-versus-facebook/ 3 |
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During the first week of November 2009, an analysis was run that would profile each and every member of
Congress who was listed as having a Twitter account by SourceWatch.4 The instrument chosen for the analysis
was Twitalyzer (www.twitalyzer.com
), a free tool that assesses the success of microbloggers5, providing
measures in a range of useful categories including: Influence
An influence ranking was assigned by Twitalyzer based on the following assessments:
o Relative reach based on the number of followers that a microblogger has;
o Relative authority, based on the number of times a microblogger is re-tweeted by others;
o Relative generosity, based on the level of re-tweeting of a microblogger;
o Relative clout based on the number of times that a microblogger is cited by others within
o Relative velocity based on the number of tweets a microblogger sends out. Signal
People are generally attracted to a microblogger because he or she becomes a resource,
providing useful information either through the provision of links or by re-tweeting others. That is
regarded as “signal” versus “noise,” which is representative of an informational tweet only — “I just
ate a tuna sandwich,” for example. Here Twitalyzer measures the signal to noise ratio. The higher the
percentage assigned, the stronger the signal of the microblogger. The higher the signal, the more
influential a microblogger will be regarded by Twitalyzer. Generosity
This is the level by which a microblogger re-tweets the postings of another
microblogger. Those with a low generosity factor will negatively impact their influence as they would
be considered generally of less interest than those microbloggers who spread useful information, even
if it originated with others. Velocity
The speed with which one posts tweets. A low velocity can reduce one’s influence, but
frequent tweeting with a high noise ratio can also negatively impact a microblogger’s influence. Clout
A rating assigned based on the number of times that a microblogger was cited, mentioned, or
re-tweeted by other microbloggers.
If a particular member of Congress (MOC) did not recently update his or her Twitter feed, then a profile may
not have been generated by the Twitalyzer tool. In that case, the MOC may not have been included in
assessing the tallies. Therefore, the measurements listed herein are for active MOCs only and do not include
MOC Twitter feeds that have entered a period of dormancy.
It should also be noted that since the time that the assessments were conducted using Twitalyzer, the
assessment tool has been revised to offer more comprehensive categories and rankings, and some of the
definitions and terms have been changed. The assessments that were run in the first week of November retain
the old Twitalyzer categories and definitions for purposes of this report.
To assess the volume of tweets from Congress, a survey was taken on the number of tweets by each
congressman on January 3, 2010. Those MOCs with an open Twitter account but who have posted no tweets
is a free encyclopedia about the people, issues, and groups shaping the public agenda, including activist groups and government
agencies but especially public relations firms, front groups, industry-friendly experts and think tanks that try to manipulate public opinion. See
5 For purposes of this paper, the term “microblogger” or “microbloggers” refers to those who Twitter or tweet, commonly known as Twitterers. 4 |
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at any time were not included in the assessment; consequently, their followers would not have been
included.6 Limitations and Qualifications
. A one-week time period was used to gather the information. It is possible that
if a MOC microblogger had a week where he or she was away and did not send tweets at the usual pace, his or
her scoring could have been affected. Ideally, the analyses would have been performed on the same day,
making the profile a true snapshot in time. Given the one-week time frame, it is possible, though not likely,
that the influence of some MOCs could have changed within a one-week time period.
The results herein are a snapshot only. Over time, if a particular MOC was extremely active during a specific
period, the rankings could easily shift. Similarly, if a particular MOC began offering more tweets in subsequent
weeks, rankings could change.
Only MOCs who used their proper name were included. Members who used a title, such as “GOP Leader”
were not included.
For the most recent and up-to-date rankings of Members of Congress, the rates at which they are attracting
followers and to see their tweet-streams, among other things, visit the excellent resource Tweet Congress
(www.tweetcongress.org). The stats page will show who, and what parties, have acquired the most followers
in the past week and past month (http://tweetcongress.org/stats) as well as show some stats by party
6 Some MOCs have opened Twitter feeds, but have never posted a tweet. Nevertheless, they have in some cases acquired a respectable number of
followers. These followers have not been included in this report. 5 |
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“The history of the Internet suggests that there have been cool Web sites that go in and out of fashion and then there have been open standards that become plumbing. Twitter is looking more and more like plumbing, and plumbing is eternal.” — Steven Johnson
Some may not take Twitter seriously as a medium. There are many reasons for that, possibly including the
name. Also known as “microblogging,” Twitter is an example of the explosive growth of social media, which
began as a means for people to provide quick status updates and was quickly embraced by growing numbers
of institutional, advocacy, and mainstream users, all target audiences for members of Congress.
Those audiences include members of Congress themselves; in fact, there are some in Congress who are taking
Twitter very seriously, using microblogging to reach and motivate their constituents. The unique quality of
Twitter to send out messages to vast numbers of people almost instantly makes it ideally suited for grassroots
efforts. Gone are the yesteryear fax trees and e-mail chains of public policy advocacy — Twitter is faster and
much more fleet than either of those policy tools. And by all appearances, Twitter is here to stay.
In all, there are 132 active MOCs using Twitter to communicate with their constituencies. The number of
followers that each member has, the use of the medium to send out information and/or resources, and the
social aspect of the communication varies widely with individual members of the body.
In reviewing the data, one can easily see that Republican MOCs are outpacing their Democratic rivals in nearly
every single category that was measured in preparing this report. Not only is there a story in the fact that
Republicans are leading in their use of microblogging, but the magnitude of their reach over Democrats is also
large, especially in the U.S. House of Representatives. Republicans send out more tweets and have the
attention of many more people than do the Democrats.
Here are the key takeaways from this report: More Republicans Use Twitter Than Democrats
— In Congress, there are 132 members who are using
Twitter actively: 89 Republicans and 43 Democrats. In the Senate, there is nearly an even split, with 14
Republicans using Twitter compared to 11 Democrats. But in the House, there are 75 Republicans using
Twitter (42.13 percent of the Republican Caucus) and 32 Democrats (12.45 percent of the Democratic
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100 Figure 1 – Comparison of Number of Republicans and Democrats Using Twitter Senate Democrats May Be Getting More Bang for Their Tweet Over Republican Senators
Democrats in the Senate have fewer senators who are using Twitter, and they have fewer followers
than their Republican counterparts by far. Yet the Republicans only lead the Democrats slightly in the
categories of Influence and Clout; Democrats, despite their smaller numbers, are in the lead. Republican Members of the U.S. House of Representatives Are the Most Active Microbloggers
Republican House members are the most active group of microbloggers in Congress. Republican
senators outperform their Democratic rivals, but not by a large margin. It is in the House that
Republicans are using Twitter and showing microblogging muscle. In fact, among MOCs in the House:
o One House Democrat ranks in the top 10 in terms of number of followers, and there are only
two Democrats in the top 20.
o Eight House Republicans rank in the top ten category of Influence, where there are two House
o Eight House Republicans rank in the top ten category of Clout, where there are two House
Democrats. Republicans Have Higher Level of Engagement
— Republican MOCs have sent out more tweets than
Democrats by far and are following many times more individuals on Twitter than are Democrats,
indicating a higher level of engagement. As of January 3, 2010, Republican House members sent out
29,162 tweets, compared to 5,503 sent by Democrats. In addition, Republicans in both the House and
the Senate follow many more people on Twitter than the Democrats. 7 |
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120000 Figure 2 – Comparison of Number of Tweets Sent by Party – U.S. House of Representatives Individual Distinctions
o Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) has the most followers of any member of the Senate.
o Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) is the top senator for volume — i.e., number of tweets.
o Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) had more Clout and Influence than any other senator.
o Rep. John Boehner (R-OH), the House Republican leader, leads the Republicans in the House in
terms of number of followers, followed by Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA).
o Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) led House Republicans in Clout and in Influence. A Look at the Parts
This report examines each body making up Congress, and each party. Below both the Senate and the House
are summarized to provide insight into which party and which individuals
Have the most followers;
Are following the most people on Twitter;
Have acquired the greatest Clout ranking7; and
Have acquired the greatest Influence factor.8
The U.S. Senate
Altogether, there are 31 members of the Senate who are on Twitter. Of them, 25 were assessed using the
assessment tool Twitalyzer. The balance had not been active enough in the medium to be able to be analyzed.
The Democrats have 11 Senators who have been actively sending tweets, while the Republicans have 14.
However, the Republicans are sending more messages to more followers than the Democrats are sending.
7 A rating assigned based on the number of times that a microblogger was cited, mentioned, or re-tweeted by other microbloggers
8 Influence –
An influence ranking was assigned by Twitalyzer based on the following assessments:
Relative reach based on the number of followers that a microblogger has;
Relative authority, based on the number of times a microblogger is re-tweeted by others;
Relative generosity, based on the level of re-tweeting of a microblogger
Relative clout based on the number of times that a microblogger is cited by others within tweets;
Relative velocity based on the number of tweets a microblogger sends out. 8 |
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Followers Figure 3 – U.S. Senate Comparison of Followers by Party – With McCain Factor
While it appears to be a completely lopsided contest between the parties, the advantage of Republicans in this
case is entirely attributable to Sen. McCain, who himself had 1,599,399 followers. If the McCain factor is
removed from the Republican tally, the Senate Democrats actually lead the Republicans in terms of number of
followers. However, that still leaves Republican Senate members following other microbloggers over 2.5 times
more than Democrats.
Following Figure 4 – U.S. Senate Comparison By Party of Followers and Following – Minus McCain Factor 9 |
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- Twongress (2) 1
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