This piece was originally published in the February 11, 2022 edition of CAP Action’s weekly newsletter, What’s Trending? Subscribe to What’s Trending? here.
We’ve had a busy week on political social media between the jobs report, Joe Rogan, and January 6th.
While we all experienced the tumult and turmoil over the past week, the conclusions from our analytics team will help you cut through the noise and understand what’s trending.
Read on to learn more. But first, in case you missed it, check out our February 4th edition of What’s Trending?
WHAT’S TRENDING THIS WEEK
- Jobs: Last Friday, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released a strong jobs report despite the spread of Omicron. In January, the economy gained an impressive 467,000 jobs and the unemployment rate remained relatively flat (despite millions sick and out of the workforce).
- Trump: Republicans struggle to forge a coherent path forward when it comes to discussing January 6th and Trump. Internal debates continue to divide the GOP on the characterization of January 6th as “legitimate political discourse,” and Fox News has called out Trump’s claims of election fraud as lies. This all comes at a time when House Democrats are investigating the former president for his alleged violations of the Presidential Records Act.
WHAT WE’RE HEARING ON SOCIAL
Progressives authored two of the top ten political posts of the past week, down from five the week prior. Joe Biden’s post about the new White House cat, Willow, led all political posts in interactions by a significant margin, and First Lady Dr. Jill Biden’s post also featured in the top ten.
Otherwise, the majority of progressive posts focused on banned books, largely in response to a Tennessee school board’s recent decision to ban the graphic novel Maus. This topic resonated widely on Facebook, with a post from the Frontline getting over 133,000 shares — the first time this page has ever appeared in our top 10, and the most engagement on any of their posts in our database.
Conservative top posts were more varied, with references to the Canadian trucker strike over COVID-19 mandates in a graphic and a live clipping painting the strike as an opposition to the “tyranny” of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. There were no fewer than three posts from Breitbart and Ben Shapiro on Whoopi Goldberg’s possible departure from the daytime talk show The View. And there were two posts referencing various artists’ decisions to leave Spotify over the platform’s decision to keep Joe Rogan on the air as one of their premier exclusive podcast hosts, despite him promoting COVID misinformation.
While the ongoing Joe Rogan and Spotify discourse continues to dominate much of our Facebook tracking, there are several other trend lines worth teasing out.
First, the strong jobs report last Friday did make a difference in the data, with jobs-related posts gaining over 800,000 Facebook interactions on February 4th. But that report was also competing with a crowded news cycle.
On the same day, there was a significant increase in interactions for January 6th-related posts as Mike Pence rebuked Donald Trump over attempts to overturn the 2020 election, followed by the RNC censuring Adam Kinzinger and Liz Cheney. The magnitude of the single-day spike was relatively small, however (only 600,000 interactions) and dropped off relatively quickly, with progressives unable to maintain a sustained drumbeat on this topic.
Alarmingly, the revelations that Trump improperly removed and destroyed documents from the White House barely made an impression on Facebook, averaging only 87,000 interactions per day over the course of the last two weeks. Notably, there were less than 1,400 posts on this topic among U.S. pages, by far the lowest count among our sample topics.
Another topic that’s getting surprisingly modest engagement is inflation. Conservative pages have not been pushing a narrative around inflation nearly as heavily as they have at other times in the last year, with the topic averaging a low 88,000 daily interactions. Instead, conservative pages have seemingly preferred to center the conversation around vaccine and mask mandates, with the most-engaged posts highlighting Shaquille O’Neal’s recent criticisms of vaccine mandates.
Paying attention to what doesn’t gain traction on Facebook can be just as informative as noting what does perform well when evaluating the success of progressive and conservative messaging. We’ll continue to do both for you in this space.
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.