This piece was originally published in the January 14, 2022 edition of CAP Action’s weekly newsletter, What’s Trending? Subscribe to What’s Trending? here.
I hope this note finds you healthy and relatively happy following the holiday break. 2022 has certainly dawned heavier than other new years with the rise in coronavirus cases due to the Omicron variant and the anniversary of the January 6th Insurrection.
This week, we’ll examine how those topics and more performed across political Facebook.
We’ll dive into these topics below. Read on to learn more. But first, in case you missed it, check out our December 17 edition of What’s Trending?
WHAT’S TRENDING THIS WEEK
- COVID-19: The Omicron variant continues to fuel a significant rise in both cases and hospitalizations across the country. While continuing to encourage Americans to get vaccinated and receive booster shots when eligible, the Biden-Harris administration recently announced plans to increase access to at-home testing and high-quality masks. 73% of U.S. adults are now fully vaccinated, 87% have received at least one dose, and 40% have received booster shots.
- Voting rights: President Biden formally called on the Senate to change its filibuster rules to pass voter protections during a speech in Atlanta, Georgia on Tuesday. Democratic congressional leadership quickly announced their plans to begin moving voting rights legislation through the chambers and, on Thursday morning, the House passed “the Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act” 220–203.
WHAT WE’RE HEARING ON SOCIAL
Progressives have authored the majority of the most-engaged political posts on Facebook two weeks in a row, occupying six of the top ten spots in the last week and nine out of ten the previous week.
Top progressive posts in the past week centered around the anniversary of January 6th, with multiple posts from President Biden, The Other 98%, and Barack Obama. Other topics featured in the top ten included a tribute to Sidney Poitier from Barack Obama and a snow day celebration from Elizabeth and Bailey Warren.
Top posts from conservatives included a Dan Bongino post speculating about potential cancellation of Joy Reid’s MSNBC show, multiple posts from Bongino praising Rand Paul for his continued attacks on Dr. Fauci, and Ben Shapiro amplifying Tucker Carlson’s mockery of Nancy Pelosi.
Interestingly, the two groups of pages had significant differences in the format of posts used — nine of the ten progressive posts were photo-based (a best practice we encourage!), while the top ten conservative posts consisted of seven links, two videos, and only one photo.
As mentioned above, the January 6th attack was by far the biggest story on political Facebook over the last two weeks, and the topic trend data below bears that out. Posts on the anniversary of the insurrection generated nearly 7 million interactions in a single day, far outstripping the other topics in our chart, as seen below. Progressive and conservative pages alike were very active, with much of the engagement stemming from posts about both President Biden’s speech and the ensuing response from Donald Trump.
As has been consistently true for much of the pandemic, COVID-19 remains a dominant topic of discussion on Facebook. Posts related to COVID-19 averaged more than 3 million interactions a day over the last two weeks, with top stories including Marjorie Taylor Greene’s ban from Twitter for misinformation, a post from President Biden encouraging vaccination, and criticism from Ron DeSantis tying immigration to the pandemic.
Finally, the push by Democratic leaders to elevate voting rights this week has made a visible impact in the data, albeit a small one. Posts referencing voting rights generally or the two bills under consideration in the Senate totaled 1.6 million interactions on January 11th and 12th — significantly higher than economic topics like job growth or inflation, but still far below the pandemic. This shows that messengers like President Biden and Vice President Harris (with amplification from progressive allies) can change the conversation by elevating a topic, but also that voting rights still have to compete with a very crowded media environment and a wide variety of issues for attention.
Thanks for reading,
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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.