Different Channel, Same Strategy? Filling Empirical Gaps in Congress Literature
Paper to be presented at the 2015 Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association (APSA), San Francisco, September 3-6, 2015.
22 Pages Posted: 12 Jun 2019
Date Written: May 28, 2019
Political scientists frequently study the public communications of members of Congress to better understand their electoral strategies, policy responsiveness, ability to influence public opinion and media coverage of Congress. However, different studies base their conclusions on different communication channels, including (among others) member websites, newsletters, press releases, and social media. These scholars have taken these individual sources as fully representative of the communication strategy of the elected officials as a whole. However, what has not been asked is whether members communicate the same or different messages across these differing channels? In this paper we look at the members’ press releases, Twitter, and Facebook messages sent from August to December 2014 in order to study to what extent their communication strategy is consistent across channels. We use an automatic semi-supervised method to classify the messages into political issues and to assess the validity of inferring broader communication patterns from a single source. Do members tend to highlight the same or different issues, and attempt to appeal to the same or different audiences across different communications channels? Does message consistency vary over time or context such as district competitiveness? Through this work we aim to give an empirical grounding to the implied notion that studying one communication channel is a proxy for studying all communication channels.
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