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.
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.
WHAT’S TRENDING THIS WEEK
- 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.
WHAT WE’RE HEARING ON SOCIAL
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.
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.
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.
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,
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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.