August 21st, 2009
12:00 PM ET
12 years ago

Liberal bloggers admit conservatives have upper hand on Twitter

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/08/21/art.twitter.cnn.jpg caption="Which party has the upper hand on Twitter?"]WASHINGTON (CNN) – Liberal bloggers established online political activism, besting their conservative rivals during President George W. Bush's eight years in office. But conservatives are now finding great success 140 characters at a time. Even this week, the conservative organization Club For Growth promoted their Twitter account on their $1.2 million ad campaign against health care.

Even though President Obama and national Democrats use Twitter – the social micro blog that everyone from Ashton Kutcher and Shaquille O'Neal to Chuck Grassley and Newt Gingrich often use to directly speak to followers – Republicans have embraced the technology. And with major policy issues being debated and the midterm elections right around the corner, liberal bloggers acknowledge the GOP has the upper hand when it comes to using 140 character messages known as "tweets" to influence the discussion.

"While it is obvious the progressive blogosphere is superior, we are being out-organized on Twitter," said Gina Cooper, a blogger who helped organize Netroots Nation, an annual gathering of online liberal activists that met last week in Pittsburgh. "There is some catching up to do on the progressive side."

Tracy Viselli, who attended Netroots Nation, agreed with Cooper and admitted that liberal bloogers are ceding this valuable territory to conservatives.

"Twitter is a news funnel," she said. "Conservatives are very tightly knit and getting their message out very well."

When Republicans were in control of the largest bullhorn in the world – the White House – there was little impetus for conservative activists to exploit a platform to express their views.

"Conservatives have long had this inferiority complex in the online world," said Matt Lewis, a conservative who writes for PoliticsDaily.com. "That is because Republicans have been in power when the blogosphere was invented.

Lewis added, "The ability to effectively utilize the Internet in the political realm works very well for the have-nots. It does not work so well for the establishment."

To that end, Republicans are working overtime to establish a beachhead, online.

"Twitter is the best example of the most modern technology and how folks are organizing," David All, a GOP new media consultant who has helped galvanize the party on Twitter, told CNN. He points to the success of hashtags – a popular way to keep track of a conversation – on Twitter. “#TCOT” (top conservatives on Twitter) has seen much more success on Twitter than “#P2 (progressives 2.0).  See stats from Hashtag.org here: TCOT vs P2.

Cooper is quick to defend progressives: “Conservatives are always good at pushing that one concise message. The death panels are easy to tweet. The explanation for why there are no death panels and making that explanation takes much more explanation. You can’t do that on Twitter.”

Erick Erickson, managing editor of the popular conservative Web site RedState.com, said that conservatives' efforts online are important but noted that people should continue to use traditional means to try and influence Congress.

"It is all well and good to be banging on your key board, but if you are not picking up the phone and yelling at your congressman, it does not do you very good," he said.

Despite having an upper hand on Twitter, conservatives still have a ways to go when it comes to catching up to liberals in the blogoshpere. Take for instance last week's competing online conferences in Pittsburgh. Former President Clinton and White House Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett addressed about 1,500 activists attending the Netroots Nation conference. At the same time, approximately 700 conservatives gathered at the RightOnline.com conference to discuss the future of online activism.


Filed under: Social Networking • Twitter
soundoff (272 Responses)
  1. Ezra

    The reason that Republicans like Twitter is because they have trouble explaining a policy position if it takes more than 150 words.

    August 21, 2009 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  2. IndyVoter

    That's because many poor/lower middle class folks and seniors don't necessarily have computers/laptops or expensive cell phones/plans on which to tweet. Duh!

    August 21, 2009 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  3. D-Nice

    Gee, the Republicans are better at condensing complicated issues into meaningless sound/text bites?

    Who'd have thunk it?

    August 21, 2009 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  4. twitwits are the new nitwits

    Thats why they call them the new nitwits.hahaha

    August 21, 2009 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  5. jjj

    To further IndyVoter's point......I think this is partially why Fox has such high viewership ratings. They typical Democratic demographic either doesn't have money for cable, or else they're more likely to get their news from other sources such as the internet.

    August 21, 2009 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  6. Palin Power

    This is a clear sign that the GOP will retake Congress and Sarah Palin will have 2 terms in office from 2013-2021.

    August 21, 2009 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  7. chris

    Of course they're better at twitter... it takes less than 140 characters to spread fear and hate... 140+ to have substance.

    August 21, 2009 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  8. GOPer

    Tweets for the narcissistic twits. You betcha.

    August 21, 2009 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  9. Jeff

    So what?...That's the GOP All Twit (Talk), No Action. GOP = Twits or Nitwits

    August 21, 2009 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  10. Kate in SW Fla

    Republicans are historically very "snarky" so twittering suits them well. Most of their tweets are very mean-spirited.

    August 21, 2009 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  11. Greg

    Still can't figure out why folks are glued to some talking heads messages. Folks need to get a life and read more detailed information. Get informed and decide for yourselves.

    August 21, 2009 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  12. DEB

    Must be a Conservative who own's Twitter.

    Thanks CNN for this information. I will no longer use Twitter!

    August 21, 2009 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  13. LoLo

    Who cares. most of them are getting their children to do it for them. Like the saying goes you can't teach an old dog new tricks. Look at the faces of the republican party. Barney Frank surely had them pegged in Mass. at the town hal meeting. They do not have a clue as to what is going on. Only what they hear from fox cable news. They are not socialble people at all. Only people who want to keep trouble stirred up. I am really ashamed of the Repubkican party and they have shown everyone how racist they are. They are a party of doom no matter what they know in the technology field. Good riddance!!!!!!!!!!!! And the pet rock Sarah palin is going down too. This woman is brainless and Sarah power you must be too.

    August 21, 2009 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  14. Kelby In Houston, Texas

    That's conservatives for ya. they won't take the time to read a bill that is relevant to policy in the U.S. that is 1000 pages but they will take the time to tap out 140 characters on something that is totally irrelevant. They have an upper hand on a social network. How are they doing with independent voters?

    August 21, 2009 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  15. Jon Son

    Its no wonder why the GOP fares better on twitter. Its far easier to mis/under-inform your public when you are limited to 140 characters.

    August 21, 2009 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  16. Jane/Seattle

    Many of the start-up sites seem to pander to the Conservative voice. Is this a surprise to anyone. I am a blogger at http://www.sodahead.com. This site was started by a Conservative named Jason Feffer who was a part of the team who created MySpace. I note at Sodahead that the conservatives seem to get a better deal on getting away with TOS violations than many of us progressives. That site is affiliated with NewsCorp which owns Faux Noise, clearly a non-truthful network. It could be argued that we should not even associate ourselves with this type of business. I, for one, do not go near Newsmax or any other advertising there. many of us are there to teach, reach, and otherwise try to influence minds with the Truth. It was taught to me as a Christian child that the devil is the author of Confusion. Seems that the wolves in sheeps clothing are being exposed for all to see. Those would be the liars for profits in their convoluted worl of deal-making that kills so many. Sorry, I am not ever going to stand down from trying to enlighten folks who may not know. Peace, CNN

    August 21, 2009 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  17. chill

    When you have nothing to say, 140 characters is perfect.

    August 21, 2009 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  18. Chris

    The Republican are great at convincing people who are not informed on policies and issues they really need, but yet tell them they don't!!!
    If asked just one of those folks who were ranting and raving at those town halls if they paid too much for Healthcare, they probably would have said yes or they don't have any insurance!!! The day a person comes to me and tell me they don't want healtcare coverage that is as good as the elected officials we send to Washington then I know elephants have start to fly!!!

    August 21, 2009 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  19. victim of republican greed

    "Drill, baby, drill," "Ronald Reagan," and "tax cuts for the wealthy" pretty much sums up the nit twits messages.

    The GOP twitters need to add, "Corporate donations are good for my campaign," and "Lying and fear is all we got."

    August 21, 2009 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  20. LacrosseMom

    At least we, Liberals, are not living in denial as some GOPers are! So they have the upper hand on Twitter, fine.

    I like the comment by EZRA! SO TRUE!

    The ONLY thing that the GOPers got is more of the same vile politics.... which America rejected in '08 and will again in '10 and '12!

    THANK GOD ALMIGHTY THAT HOPE TRUMPS FEAR, LIES & HATE!

    August 21, 2009 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  21. donttreadonme

    Use all means available to defend the our National from the anti-capitalist, socialist Administration.

    For eight years we watched the Bush Administration tore down by liberal taking heads and conspiracy theories.

    Now it is time for a major backlash!

    August 21, 2009 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  22. VAisforLOVERS

    I can't stand Twitter, Facebook, Myspace, or any of the other social mediums. They're only trends – and are embraced only to show who is more popular than others. Why else would anyone care how many friends you have, or how many followers that you have? Myspace is losing (or has lost) steam, next will be Facebook, then Twitter. What will the next trend be?

    August 21, 2009 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  23. donttreadonme

    Use all means available to defend the our National from the anti-capitalist, socialist Administration.

    For eight years we watched the Bush Administration torn down by liberal taking heads and conspiracy theories.

    Now it is time for a major backlash

    August 21, 2009 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  24. The real health care reform information...

    well, it really says something when lying, fearmongering, and underhanded become the main tool and calling card of conservatives.

    As a Christian, I am deeply ashamed of this behavior. It's been giving Christians a bad name.

    August 21, 2009 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  25. Dave

    I never even signed up for Twitter. It's a pointless, empty-headed medium for non-ideas, so who cares who controls it? It's perfect for Republicans. They don't have any ideas so they don't need many words, and most of them can't spell or use grammar to begin with, so making little choppy words is great for them. It's a good pacifier - something that's within their limited skill set which will keep them busy and feeling like they're "doing something." When you don't have enough thought to actually fill out a blog post, just type in bumper-stickers. Yay!

    August 21, 2009 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
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