What’s Trending? Not the Inflation Reduction Act—Yet!
Part of a Series
Hi, welcome back to “What’s Trending”!
August kicked off with a bang this year. It’s been a busy couple of weeks with no shortage of news, from historic legislation to ballot measures to strong economic reports. There’s a lot to appreciate if you support progressive policies—and also a few warning signs. Let’s dig into the data.
What’s trending this week
Yesterday, President Joe Biden signed into law the Inflation Reduction Act, a transformative bill that includes the largest investment in climate action in U.S. history. Facebook posts referencing the bill by name or climate policies more broadly totaled at least 600,000 interactions after the bill passed the Senate on August 7, and 400,000 interactions after the bill passed the House of Representatives on August 12, as you can see below.
These are strong numbers, but not earth-shattering—roughly comparable to the engagement observed for posts related to the great jobs report on August 5. The passage of the Inflation Reduction Act also saw significantly lower engagement than abortion-related posts after voters overwhelmingly rejected the ballot measure in Kansas, which totaled more than 2 million interactions across two days.
There are many reasons this legislation may not be getting quite as much attention online as one might expect: social media’s lean toward outrage-inducing material, the relative issue salience of climate or health coverage compared with abortion, the name of the bill, etc.
But the major factor, of course, is the FBI’s search of former President Donald Trump’s home in Mar-a-Lago for missing classified documents, which quickly dominated the news cycle. Trump is not pictured in the above topic chart, but posts mentioning his name received 19 million interactions in this two-week period—more than double any other topic we tracked. Posts mentioning President Biden also saw a significant increase in interactions the day after the Mar-a-Lago search, with many of the posts coming from conservative pages.
Who’s leading the conversation
In fact, conservative pages dominated our list of top political posts in the past two weeks, for the first time in a long while. Conservative pages authored 15 of the top 20 posts from political pages this week—although Michelle Obama’s celebration of former President Barack Obama’s birthday took the top slot, with more than three times the engagement of any other post.
Many of the posts from conservative pages were published after the August 8 raid, although only a few of them directly referenced Trump or the FBI. Our tracking shows that engagement with posts from conservative pages surged after August 8—further supporting evidence that outrage fuels engagement online—and it’s possible that broader network effects helped boost the performance of unrelated posts from similar pages.
Top conservative posts were a roughly even split between posts reacting to the FBI raid and nonpolicy-related posts. In the former camp, Candace Owens shared a post referencing Hillary Clinton and Hunter Biden, meme page ForAmerica posted a cartoon implying the FBI would target anyone with red hats, and Donald Trump Jr. shared a video post from Truth Social. All three posts received more than 50,000 shares, with the ForAmerica cartoon shared a whopping 140,000 times.
Non-Trump-related top posts from conservative pages included anniversaries, throwback photos, remembrances, and feel-good sports content—a reminder that personal stories and photo-based content often perform well on Facebook, especially for public figures.
Among progressive pages, top posts covered a wide range of issues. Michelle Obama authored two of the top posts, celebrating Serena Williams’ illustrious career as well as Barack’s birthday. President Biden authored two more, highlighting a successful airstrike against al-Qaida and the passage of the CHIPS Act. And the Other 98% had five of the top 10, covering the FBI raid, UPS working conditions, and the shortage of dignified jobs for teachers.
Interestingly, none of the top 10 posts referenced the Inflation Reduction Act. Now that President Biden has signed it into law, it’s on all progressive messengers to help celebrate this historic accomplishment as much as possible, using best practices and optimized posting strategies to break through the noise on social media.
That’s all we have for you this week. As always, please feel free to reach out, either here or on Twitter, if you have questions about organic social media or things you would like to see covered in this newsletter.
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This newsletter is written by Eric Coffin-Gould (@coffingould on Twitter), with production, research, and insight from CAP Action’s fantastic digital team.
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.
Director of Analytics, Advocacy
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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.