Constituent connections: senators’ reputation building in the age of social media

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations

Abstract

Twitter is changing strategic messaging in the U.S. Senate. Senators are using Twitter to frame their political brand for constituents, fostering a new digital dialog with constituents. I propose a constituent-driven theory of strategic messaging where senators curate a reputation on Twitter that matches their perceived expectations of their primary constituency. Representation on social media challenges what we know about senators’ institutionally and politically constrained behavior by analyzing them in a new media climate where individual discretion is high and the costs are low. Using a unique dataset of more than 180,000 hand-coded tweets by senators, I show that senators develop two types of digital constituent relationships–an issue-oriented, national reputation versus traditional outreach to geographic constituents. Senators with issue-based constituencies prioritize policy, conveying an issue-driven style of representation; however, senators with tepid electoral futures pair their policy rhetoric with state-based issues or local concerns. These findings expand the scope of existing theories on congressional communication and link the technological shifts in Congress to information senators use to build relationships with voters.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)180-196
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Information Technology and Politics
Volume19
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Taylor & Francis.

Keywords

  • Congress
  • Twitter
  • agendas
  • representation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Computer Science (all)
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Public Administration

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