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. geg6

    Who cares? Twitter? Seriously? I'm pretty tech savvy. I don't use Twitter and can never foresee a time when I would. If I want to send a short message to someone, I have text messaging. If I have something important to say, I have a blog and my Facebook page. And if I'm discussing policy, 140 characters won't do it because I actually have a brain and there is nothing meaningful that can be conveyed about policy in 140 characters. The GOP can have Twitter. It's completely irrelevant to me and everyone I know. I know no one who Twitters or would want to.

    August 21, 2009 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  2. johnny

    140 characters to change the 57 states of Islam

    August 21, 2009 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  3. Bill

    Most Republicans work for a living. Many Democrats are on the US government dole. We know that Obama and the Federal Government is out to destroy the American economy through taxiation and regulation. So, we are stocking up on food, water, and ammo. We know you Demoncrats hate your fellow Republican Americans much more than any terrorist who means you physical harm. So, Obama will set off some terrible situation (remember the "Police acted stupidly" remark?) and this republic will die. The only thing that will matter at that point is food, water, and ammo. AND YOUR SIDE WILL LOSE.

    August 21, 2009 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  4. rocky

    so what? the country has moved on from the GOP.

    August 21, 2009 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  5. Quick2822

    Because the Republicans don't have more than 140 characters worth of stuff to say.

    Insulting the President and saying "let's do nothing" is easy.

    August 21, 2009 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  6. Ninos

    Any twit can tweet! Look at Sarah Failin!

    August 21, 2009 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  7. Tommy Paine

    The Sheeples are up early! Laid off again due to the great one? Or, never had a job to begin with? The Demmies can't explain their position in 1,000 + pages. The mantra of the progressive "do as we say, not as we do". Wake up sheeples, think for yourself, and discard the nomenclature for faux political activism. Libertarianism for all!!!

    August 21, 2009 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  8. ANGIE IN PA

    So they can twit big deal they sure cant run the Country right! Besides all they are twittering is their Fear Mongering and Lies!

    August 21, 2009 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  9. jimbobfish

    I don't understand. If 'the progressive blogosphere is superior' how could 'there is some catching up to do on the progressive side.'?

    August 21, 2009 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  10. call me crazy

    That is because 140 characters equals the maximum attention span of the average conservative.

    August 21, 2009 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  11. Claude Pepper

    The Left is going down hard in 2010, and I don't need Twitter to know that.

    Election day 2010 tweet: 35-50 House seat takeovers for Reps, and even more if the Left keeps stumbling; at least 2 Senate seat pickups, and arguably more.

    August 21, 2009 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  12. StephenRex

    Now now, Dems, don't be sore losers. While you're at it, get used to losing gracefully: the 2010 midterms are close at hand.

    August 21, 2009 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  13. cmkc

    Chris just summed it up: "Of course they're (Republicans) better at twitter… it takes less than 140 characters to spread fear and hate… 140+ to have substance." Perfect – They can inflame, lie and incite those with minimal thought processes and short attention spans.

    August 21, 2009 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  14. Jaybyrd

    Conservative= Racist

    August 21, 2009 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  15. productive member of society

    Republicans are busy doing things like working to pay thier mortgage (and probably yours), bail out the auto industry, support wellfare cases and (coming soon) pay for your health care. Thats why they dont have time to blog all day long in their parents basements. I can see why twitter would appeal to them.

    August 21, 2009 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  16. chris in PA

    You can easily tell which comments are from liberals: if the comment is either condescending, snide, or based on a misconception (i.e. See jjj comment 5), then it came from a
    liberal. If the comment is talking about a fact without being condescending or snide, it is VERY likely from a conservative. Conservatives think liberals have bad ideas whereas liberals think conservatives are bad people.

    August 21, 2009 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  17. Darth Vadik, CA

    For now maybe, we'll see

    August 21, 2009 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  18. Rick

    So when the Reps beat the Dems at their own game, the Dems resort to denouncing the game. Hello pot... the kettle is calling.
    LOL... too darn funny.

    August 21, 2009 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
  19. Courteous Wolf

    My, my, there's an awful lot of angst and hate on this site, eh? Do you libs think you own the internet? Phooey!

    August 21, 2009 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  20. Sherri Roche

    You and your CNN team, along with NBC, MSNBC, Peolsi, Reid, and the rest of the gang, JUST DON'T GET IT! The majority of Americans are FED UP with more government intrusion into our lives. We have true unemployment of 16%, we have lost 30% of our savings, and bankruptcies are STILL going up despite TARP, The Stimulus, Bailouts, and the 2 trillion dollar budget for this year. We are fed up with government growing on the backs of the American taxpayer! And lastly,,,Obama release your dang birth certificate and show what you are hiding.

    August 21, 2009 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  21. Conan

    Conan says there's a new social website that combines YouTube, Twitter and Facebook. They've named it:
    YouTwitFace

    August 21, 2009 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  22. JHepp

    Twitter is vacuous media hype and this "article" lacks any quantitative data to support it's narrative.

    August 21, 2009 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  23. Allison

    Simple words making up short sentences to convey half-baked ideas and paranoia to the largely uninformed, on a social platform a 4 year old child could conquer in 2 minutes.

    Example Twitiocy: Obama Death Squad

    Also sounds like a CNN sound bite, how odd.

    [[claps]]

    August 21, 2009 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  24. Neil

    Hur hur republicans are stupid and evil. Hating them makes me feel like a better person.

    August 21, 2009 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  25. Richard Williams

    We own talk radio. Twitting is for Twits. No comparison.

    August 21, 2009 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
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