Members of Congress who are more extreme in their ideology have more followers on Facebook according to a new analysis.
The Pew Research Center found that members of Congress who tend toward the extreme right and left tend to have more people who follow their accounts on Facebook. Those members of Congress with the most followers on the social network include Rep. Trey Gowdy, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Sen. Bernie Sanders, Sen. Ted Cruz and Utah Sen. Mike Lee.
It’s not clear exactly why more-ideological members have more page followers than moderates. But a February Pew Research Center analysis of Facebook posts shared by members of the previous Congress found that very liberal or conservative lawmakers were more likely to share content that expressed indignation or disagreement on political matters, and that such posts drew more engagement online. Other research that examined past Congresses using the same measure of ideology has found that media outlets were more likely to cover the most liberal and conservative members of the U.S. House than they were moderates.
Looking at Congress as a whole, more Facebook users follow congressional Democrats’ official pages than Republicans’ pages. The median number of followers for Democratic members of the 115th Congress in the House was 14,676, compared with 10,597 for Republicans. Among senators, the median number of followers for Democrats was 39,890, compared with 24,870 for Republicans.
This partisan gap may be explained by differences in who uses Facebook to follow politics. A Pew Research Center survey in 2016, for example, found that a higher portion of Facebook users who self-identify as liberal Democrats reported learning about the presidential election through Facebook than conservative Republican users. However, the individual members with the most Facebook followers include lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.