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Lawmaker posts reflect polarized political environment

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About half of the news links that lawmakers put on their Facebook accounts are linked closely to their own party or political philosophy, according to a Pew Research analysis released Monday.

The Pew report also found that the number of news links sent out by Democrats surged after the election of President Trump. 

The findings give a glimpse at the kind of news that lawmakers are sharing with their constituents in the age of social media, and show members of both parties leaning toward pushing out stories that match their political agendas.

{mosads}“For example, Breitbart News was linked to nearly 700 times among Republican lawmakers (particularly more conservative Republicans) during the study period, and zero times by Democrats in Congress,” the Pew analysts wrote.

“On the opposite side of the spectrum, there were more than 1,100 links to the Huffington Post by congressional Democrats, but only 89 from Republican lawmakers,” it continues.

The stories that were shared the most occurred when conservatives and liberal congressional members shared stories from the same outlets, with Pew citing The Washington Post, The Hill and CNN as examples of the most broadly shared news organizations.

“In contrast, outlets with a very wide boxed range — such as The Washington Post, The Hill and CNN — were linked to often by both liberals and conservatives in Congress. For example, news links to CNN were shared 1,011 times by Democrats in Congress during the study period, and 1,062 by congressional Republicans.”

The extensive analysis examined all Facebook posts by members of the last two Congresses and covered 447,684 posts from 581 lawmakers. Of those posts, 177,467 contained links to other web sites in general, while 42,219 included links to news outlets.

The analysis also shows that congressional Democrats doubled the amount of news they shared on Facebook following Trump’s victory in November 2016, while Republican sharing of stories stayed essentially the same.

“After Trump won the 2016 presidential election, Democrats in Congress became increasingly likely to share national news on Facebook,” according to Pew.

“Between Jan. 2, 2015, and Nov. 8, 2016 — the day of the presidential election — just 8 percent of congressional Democrats’ Facebook posts included links to national news stories. From Jan. 20 through July 20, 2017, however, that number doubled to 16 percent,” the study adds.

“By contrast, the share of congressional Republican posts linking to national news stories remained about the same before and after the inauguration (9 percent vs. 8 percent).”

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