Sharing the News in a Polarized 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. What’s more, 5% of these news links pointed to outlets that were exclusively linked to by members of one political party. The study also finds that Democratic members of Congress became more likely to share stories from national news outlets once President Donald Trump took office in January 2017. Prior to the November 2016 presidential election, 8% of all Facebook posts made by Democrats linked to national news, a proportion that doubled to 16% after Trump’s inauguration. By contrast, the share of congressional Republican posts linking to national news stories remained about the same before and after the inauguration (9% vs. 8%).

The new analysis finds some evidence that the ways that Facebook audiences interact with congressional posts containing news links may be modestly reinforcing the ideological divide. Specifically, the Facebook audience re-shared news stories from outlets that fell on the most liberal or conservative ends of a “sharing score” 21% to 22% more often than when the link came from a news source that fell in the middle.

Sharing the News in a Polarized Congress Lawmaker news tweets reflect polarized political environment (The Hill)