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A New Study Said Politicians Have Been Doomscrolling More Too

New research from Pew showed that lawmakers' social media use has nearly doubled since 2016.

Last updated on July 16, 2020, at 4:06 p.m. ET

Posted on July 16, 2020, at 2:35 p.m. ET

Alex Wong / Getty Images

Rep. Adam Schiff, chair of the House Intelligence Committee, checks his phone.

The last four years have made doomscrolling monsters of all of us — and, despite yesterday's Twitter hack, that's true for members of Congress, too.

A new study from the Pew Research Center shows that social media use among congressional representatives has nearly doubled since 2016 on Twitter. On Facebook members of Congress are posting 48% more content than they were four years ago.

They’re also spending their social media time dragging one another. According to Pew, some of the most effective posts mention political opponents. For the Democrats, that means posting about Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, and, of course, President Donald Trump. On the Republican side, mentions of Rep. Adam Schiff and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi drive likes, shares, and comments.

Social media posts that mention political opponents will increase audience engagement, according to this chart from the Pew Research Center
Pew Research Center

There seems to be a partisan divide between social media platforms, Adam Hughes, associate director of research of Pew's Data Labs, told BuzzFeed News; Democrats see higher numbers on Twitter, while Republicans get more engagement on Facebook.

“It may be the case that US Twitter users tend to be more Democratic-identifying than Facebook users,” Hughes said.

While Democrats post more often — gaining more engagement overall — an average Republican post gets more likes, comments, shares, and retweets than the average Democratic one.

“If you really just care about totals, Democrats get a lot more engaged,” Hughes said. “But if you look at the typical experience, the median number, Republicans are actually getting a little bit more.”

In addition to measuring engagement numbers, Pew looked at what members of Congress were posting about — and saw big differences between the parties.

Certain terms and phrases are used disproportionately by lawmakers from one party, reads this chart from the Pew Research Center
Pew Research Center

“More than half of Democratic members mentioned the name ‘Breonna Taylor’ or terms like ‘racial injustice,’ but fewer than one in ten Republicans did,” a Pew blog post wrote.

One marked difference is the conversation surrounding Black Lives Matter protests, as a secondary analysis of the data has shown. Black members of Congress make up just 10% of elected officials — but among the governing body, they publish a quarter of the posts about Black Lives Matter.

Democrats' most distinctive terms were "equal pay," "gun safety," "LGBT," and "workers’ rights." By contrast, the most distinctive terms for Republicans were "pro-growth," "bureaucrats," "unborn," and "illegal immigrant."

Curiously, another unique phrase used by Republicans was “enjoyed visiting,” mentioned by nearly 75% of lawmakers of that party.

That sits just above another Republican term: “Christ.”


The study found that Twitter usage among members of Congress has doubled since 2016. An earlier version of this post misstated which social networks were involved in the study.

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.