Center for American Progress Action

What’s Trending? Mandates and anti-vaxxers and Ron DeSantis, oh my
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This piece was originally published in the August 13, 2021 edition of CAP Action’s weekly newsletter, What’s Trending? Subscribe to What’s Trending? here.

Hey, y’all.

I bought a new face mask last week.

I’d put it off — I wanted to believe that the recent rise in COVID cases would be short-lived. Still, as my masks from last April became worse for wear and conversations with friends became dominated by worry and fear over the Delta variant, I bit the bullet.

To be honest, it felt like I’d breached a weird psychological barrier, like by purchasing this $12.99 floral-printed piece of fabric, I was making a statement that masks were now a permanent part of my life and not a blip from an unusual year.

If my newsfeed is any indication, lots of other people are feeling the same. So this week, we did a deep dive into more than 54,000 relevant Facebook posts. Read on to learn more about what people are talking about and who is leading the conversation.

But first! Did you miss our latest edition of What’s Trending? Don’t worry — you can read it here.


  • Infrastructure: On Sunday, the Senate advanced President Biden’s Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act with a 67–27 bipartisan vote. Early Wednesday morning, the Senate also approved a $3.5 trillion budget resolution. The two bills make up the President’s Build Back Better agenda: investing heavily in physical infrastructure and also including historic investments in child care, health care, fighting climate change, lowering the cost of prescription drugs, and more.
  • Climate Crisis: On Monday, the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its 2021 report. The 130-page report detailed how humans have warmed the planet, that some of those changes are irreversible, and that while further harm is inevitable, there is still a narrow window for us to act.


Conservatives outperformed progressives last week in the top 10 political posts by interactions.

Candace Owens and Ben Shapiro published six of the top 10 posts, touching on vaccine misinformation, school mask mandates, and Andrew Cuomo. A personal post from Arnold Schwarzenegger also cracked the top 10.

Top progressive posts came from President Biden and Hillary Clinton and covered electric vehicles, jobs numbers, and Allyson Felix.

Top 20 best-performing political Facebook posts by interactions, according to data from NewsWhip.
Top 10 best-performing political Facebook posts on the left and right for the weeks of July 29 and August 5 by interactions, according to data from NewsWhip.
Top ten Facebook posts from progressive pages over the last week, according to data from NewsWhip.
Top ten Facebook posts from conservative pages over the last week, according to data from NewsWhip.


COVID-19 remains the dominant topic of conversation on Facebook (as in most other places). We did a deep dive into a sample of 54,000+ Facebook posts related to COVID-19 over the last week, courtesy of data collected from NewsWhip.

Vaccines are the most dominant topic by far. They were referenced in over 10,000 Facebook posts — approximately one out of every five — and generated over 950,000 shares. “Hospitalizations” and “mandates” were also heavily referenced keywords, reflecting the news of the week.

Total Facebook posts, average interactions per post, and average shares per post referencing COVID-19 and topic keywords, according to data from NewsWhip (U.S. pages only, Aug 5–10).

More polarizing topics, like Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and references to anti-vaxxers, make up a smaller slice of the total conversation but generate 2–3x as many shares on average, likely from highly-engaged bases on the left and right.

We also looked at who was posting, categorizing Facebook Pages as conservative, progressive, or independent media. We found that, unsurprisingly, progressives are being drowned out of the conversation on COVID-19. Traditional media sources like CNN and ABC produced the most content and likely reached the most people — stemming the tide of misinformation, somewhat — while conservative pages generated by far the most engagement and shares.

Total Facebook posts, average interactions per post, and average shares per post for a subset of identified and categorized Pages, according to data from NewsWhip (U.S. pages only, Aug 5–10).

Progressive content did generate slightly more shares on average than traditional media posts, but with a much smaller share of the conversation.

Thanks for reading,


P.S. Please do forward along to your friends who are interested or encourage them to sign up here.

This newsletter is written by me, Alex Witt (@alexandriajwitt), a progressive political staffer and Dolly Parton enthusiast (she/her), and CAP Action’s fantastic team of designers, data analysts, and email strategists.

The positions of American Progress, and our policy experts, are independent, and the findings and conclusions presented are those of American Progress alone. A full list of supporters is available here. American Progress would like to acknowledge the many generous supporters who make our work possible.


Alex Witt

Senior Director, Strategic Partnerships

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Welcome to “What's Trending?”, a weekly newsletter to help progressives answer the age-old questions: What works, and what doesn't? “What's Trending?” cuts through the noise to bring you the best (and worst) of what's happening on social media in the policy space, and explains why it's important.


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