Democratic lawmakers weaponized Facebook against President Trump’s election, expressing political opposition “nearly five times” as much as they had previously, taking aim both at the president and GOP lawmakers, according to a new Pew Research poll.
The results are being revealed just as Facebook and other major social media giants such as Twitter and Google have come under increasing criticism for bias against conservative viewpoints.
Among the issues are their partnerships with the Southern Poverty Law Center, a far-left organization that labels advocacy organizations and individuals “haters” or “extremists” because they support traditional marriage or oppose abortion.
Pew explained its new analysis examines congressional Facebook posts from Jan. 1, 2015, through Dec. 31, 2017, “a three-year timespan that includes the entire 114th session of Congress, the 2016 primary and general elections, the first year of the 115th Congress, and Republican President Donald Trump’s first year in office.”
The poll found Democrats “expressed opposition nearly five times as much under Trump as they did during the last two years of Barack Obama’s presidency.”
“Much of this opposition was directed at President Trump, though Democrats also increasingly opposed Republican members of Congress.”
Also, congressional Republicans posted in support of Trump more than twice as often as congressional Democrats posted in support of Obama during his final two years in office.
“Members of Congress who expressed political opposition most often were also the most liberal or conservative. This pattern is in line with the Center’s previous research on how members of Congress express political disagreement,” Pew said.
“But the new analysis also shows that the most ideological members were also the most likely to express support for others in their party. In other words, the most liberal and conservative members of Congress both attacked those on the other side more often and were more likely to affirm their own side’s decisions and positions.”
The poll also found that the Facebook audience “increasingly expressed angry reactions when responding to congressional posts.”
“In early 2016, Facebook introduced alternatives to the traditional ‘like’ reaction – and between late February 2016 and Election Day, just 2 percent of all reactions to posts used the ‘angry’ option. But by the end of 2017, 9 percent of all reactions to posts by Democrats and 13 percent of reactions to posts by Republicans were angry,” Pew said.
The survey also found dislike for Hillary Clinton surged.
“Nearly universally, both supportive and oppositional posts about Trump or Obama drew more engagement – including likes, comments and shares – than posts about other topics. But the pattern was somewhat different for Hillary Clinton. Congressional posts that supported her drew the same number of likes as posts that did not take sides either way, while posts opposing her received 93 percent more likes on average – the largest increase in likes across all the kinds of posts examined here.”
The research looked at 700,000 posts from 599 members of Congress.
It found while 12 percent of Republican posts during Obama’s tenure opposed him or his policies, a full 33 percent of Democrat posts opposed Trump when he became president.
The GOP expressed “more support” for Trump during his first year than Democrats expressed for Obama previously.
Pew said that to classify the posts, it manually analyzed about 11,000, coding them for disagreement with presidents, candidates or parties, or support.
Researchers then trained machine-learning algorithms to make predictions – based on what the human coders reported – to classify the content of the entire set of posts.