The 2016 presidential election coincided with substantial shifts in the ways that members of Congress communicated with their constituents online. Democrats expressed political opposition nearly five times as much under President Donald Trump as they did during the last two years of Barack Obama’s presidency.
The role of so-called social media “bots” – automated accounts capable of posting content or interacting with other users with no direct human involvement – has been the subject of much scrutiny and attention in recent years. These accounts can play a valuable part in the social media ecosystem by answering questions about a variety of topics in real time or providing automated updates about news stories or events.
The most ideological members of Congress shared news stories on their Facebook pages more than twice as often as moderate legislators between Jan. 2, 2015, and July 20, 2017. Members of Congress with very conservative or very liberal voting records shared news links in about 14% of all their posts. But members with more moderate ideology scores shared links to news stories in just 6% of their posts. Some of the outlets included in the study were linked to exclusively by Democrats or by Republicans in Congress.
Political divides in the American news landscape do not end with Americans’ preferences for different news sources; rather, they extend to how members of the U.S. Congress communicate with constituents in the digital age. Between January 2015 and July 2017, nearly half (48%) of the links to national news outlets that members of Congress shared on Facebook were to outlets predominantly linked to by members of just one party, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis.