How Partisanship Influences What Congress Says Online and How They Say It


Richard T. Wang and Patrick D. Tucker

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Wang, R. T., & Tucker, P. D. (2020). How Partisanship Influences What Congress Says Online and How They Say It. American Politics Research. First Published July 1, 2020. DOI: 10.1177/1532673X20939498
We investigate the influence of partisanship on congressional communication by analyzing 180,000 press releases issued by members of Congress (MCs) between 2005 and 2019. Specifically, we examine whether partisan factors such as party control of the White House and/or Congress influence the tone used by MCs and whether MCs are more likely to focus on issues that their respective party owns. Our analyses include the use of multiple OLS models, the machine learning approach gradient boosting, and Grimmer’s topical modeling software “expAgenda.” We find that (1) partisanship influences the tone MCs use when communicating online; and (2) MCs are unable to prioritize discussing issues that their respective party own but devote slightly greater attention to their party’s issues than MCs from the opposite party. Our study ultimately finds strong evidence of partisan influence in the way MCs design their press releases and has important implications for online congressional communication.
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