A new report by the Congressional Management Foundation (CMF) finds that members of Congress value social media interaction more than people may have previously thought.  The report, “Social Congress: Perceptions and Use of Social Media on Capitol Hill“, is based on a survey of 260 Congressional staff conducted between October and December 2010.

Among the key findings are:

  • Nearly two-thirds (64%) of the senior managers and social media managers surveyed think Facebook is a somewhat or very important tool for understanding constituents’ views and opinions, 42% say Twitter is somewhat or very important, and 34% say YouTube is somewhat or very important tool for understanding constituents’ views and opinions.
  • Nearly three-quarters (74%) of the senior managers and social media managers surveyed think Facebook is somewhat or very important for communicating their Members’ views. YouTube is viewed by nearly three-quarters of staffers surveyed (72%) as somewhat or very important for communicating their Members’ views. More than half (51%) of the staffers surveyed say Twitter is a somewhat or very important vehicle for their Member’s communications.
  • A strong majority of staffers (72%) believe that social media allows their Members to reach people they had previously not communicated with. A majority of the staffers (55%) feel social media offers their offices more benefits than risks.
  • Two-thirds (66%) of the staffers 30 years old and younger feel social media is worth the time their offices spend on it, compared to only about one-third (32%) of their colleagues 51 and older who feel the same.
  • More than one-third of the staffers surveyed feel their offices spend too little time on online town hall meetings, posting videos, their official website, and their official blog. Democrats were more likely than Republicans to say their offices do not spend enough time on online communications.

“Social media tools have been adopted more rapidly than previous technologies,” said Bradford Fitch, President and CEO of CMF. “These technologies are starting to change how Congress communicates with their constituents and is allowing Members to reach citizens who otherwise might not engage in the democratic dialogue,” he said.

The report is part of CMF’s initiative, the Partnership for a More Perfect Union. The Partnership seeks to enrich the relationship between citizens and Congress through education, building trust, and providing innovative yet pragmatic tools to facilitate purposeful two-way communication. Through the Partnership, CMF also analyzes and grades congressional websites, and will issue the Gold Mouse Awards for the best websites in November 2011.  ASAE and other associations are members and partners with CMF in this important effort to improve communication between constituents and their elected representatives.

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