#SocialCongress 2015:

August 24, 2016

This report provides an overview of research with congressional staffers about how they view and process social media and discusses the implications of the research for citizens when communicating with congressional offices through social media platforms.

The findings are based on two online surveys conducted between July and August 2014, one of House and Senate Communications Directors and the other of House and Senate Legislative Directors and Legislative Assistants. CMF received a total of 116 responses: 53% were communications staffers while 47% were legislative and policy staffers; 55% were employed by Democrats and 45% by Republicans; 83% were employed in the House while 17% were employed in the Senate.

The report, #SocialCongress 2015, was based on a CMF survey of House and Senate Communications Directors, Legislative Directors, and Legislative Assistants conducted in 2014. "The authenticity of a tweet or Facebook post, whether by a citizen or lawmaker, has the inescapable power to change minds," said Bradford Fitch, President & CEO of CMF and co-author of the report. "This report shows a glimpse at how that process happens. It opens a window into the perceptions and motivations of how social media influences public policy decisions on Capitol Hill," he said.

Among other key findings:

  • 76% of the respondents agreed that "social media enabled us to have more meaningful interactions with constituents;"
  • 70% agreed that "social media have made Members/Senators more accountable to constituents;"
  • 71% said social media comments directed to the Member/Senator by "multiple constituents affiliated with a specific group or cause" would have "some" or "a lot" of influence on an undecided lawmaker.

The report suggests that the data might even dispel some myths citizens seem to have about the responsiveness of elected officials. "Despite overwhelming cynicism as to whether Congress listens to citizens, these findings support previous CMF research indicating that constituents can have an impact on lawmakers' decisions."

Founded in 1977, CMF is a nonpartisan nonprofit dedicated to helping Congress and its Members meet the evolving needs and expectations of an engaged and informed 21st century citizenry. Its work focuses on improving congressional operations and enhancing citizen engagement through research, publications, training, and management services.