On Twitter, Republicans are absolutely dominant, according to a recent study by a prominent Washington policy analyst. The study found that Republican politicians have far more followers and influence on the micro-blogging site than do their Democratic counterparts.
GOP prominence on online social networks heralds a markedly different trend from the technologically dominant Obama presidential campaign, which outmatched its opponents in virtually (no pun intended) every area of online communications. But necessity is the mother of invention, and having been relegated to the minority both in popular opinion and electoral prominence, Republicans have had to turn to alternative ways to get their messages out.
According to Forbes, the report shows that
in the House of Representatives, Republicans are far more prolific, sending out 29,162 Tweets through early January, five times as many micro messages as their Democratic counterparts. In the Senate, Republicans' 6,310 tweets outnumber Democrats' by a far smaller 35% margin.
Because Republican Congressmen tweet more often, more people subscribe, or "follow," their Twitter feeds. Thanks in part to lots of Twitter activity from groups like Top Conservatives On Twitter (TCOT), Republicans occupy 18 of the top 20 spots in terms of followers on Twitter. Republicans "follow" people back, too--or at least more than Democrats. The study says they subscribe to more people's feeds by a factor of 10.
Author Senak theorizes that the shift toward Republican twittering is more a reflection of the fact that Republicans have had to become more resourceful and inventive in the way they communicate with constituents and media than it is of any big cultural sea change on either side of the aisle. One other possibility: marginalized Republicans are looking to commiserate with other conservatives.
South Carolina Republican Sen. Jim DeMint had the most clout and influence in the Senate, according to Twitalyzer. In the House, Ohio Congressman John Boehner had the most followers, and Florida representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen led in overall clout and influence.
The study's sample is small, since not every member of Congress is on Twitter and not all those on Twitter are active enough to be analyzed. But the data suggest--even if somewhat unscientifically--that while all politicians are good at keeping on message, if that message is a tweet, it's most likely from a Republican.
Twitter emerged as a really powerful force for communications shortly after Republicans were consigned to the congressional minority in 2006. Having to cope with damaging elections--and the usual hostility from most the mainstream media--the GOP naturally turned to one of the many new avenues for political communications (the Guerilla Congress in the summer of 2008 used Twitter very well).
If the 2010 midterms sweep Republicans back into the majority--and that is a big 'if'--GOP politicians may lose the necessity for alternative means of communication, and fall back behind the times. But until then, at least, Twitter remains a Republican domain.
It will also be interesting to see if the media trumpets this fact as they did the left's dominance of the blogosphere pre-2006. I'm not going to hold my breath.