On DACA, Lawmakers Continue to Talk Past Each Other
Last week, President Trump ordered an end to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program that enables 800K immigrants – brought to the US as children – to live, work and go to school in our country.
The move has sparked big reactions on both the left and right. But will the Dreamer issue be the one that unites lawmakers? Zignal used real-time, predictive analytics to segment and analyze all tweets by members of Congress to uncover sentiment, topics and trends.
Here’s what we found.
Democrats are dominating the DACA discussion. Unsurprisingly, Democrats are unwaveringly vocal in their support of the Dreamers, citing the human cost and impact of the administration’s move to end the program. On Twitter, elected Democrats used emotive and persuasive language – words like “children,” “Dreamers,” “economy,” and “young people” – to articulate their support of DACA recipients. Referencing young people or children, for example, underscores their innocence, highlighting that the Dreamers were brought here by their parents, a decision that was out of their control.
Republicans are much more reticent on the subject. Democrats account for 89 percent of the overall Twitter conversation for all DACA-related tweets (meaning any related keyword). In contrast, Republicans were much more silent on the issue. Those Republicans who tweeted using the term “DACA,” for instance, accounted for just 14.7 percent of all members of Congress. Only three percent of the conversation generated by Republicans referenced Dreamers in at least one tweet – contrasting with 97 percent of the conversation dominated by Democrats. When Republicans touch on the economy in DACA-related tweets, it’s typically to state they believe the Dreamers take economic opportunity from American citizens – and Democrats are more likely to use it to highlight the economic benefits these DACA recipients bring. In most cases, however, the focus is on the impact to the recipients.
Republicans mostly leave President Trump alone (on this issue, on social media). Republicans only used “President Trump” in Dreamer-related tweets about 4 percent of the time and “Trump administration” about 22 percent. On the media side, we’ve seen multiple Republicans – McConnell, Graham, McCain, Ryan, and Flake, for instance – share public statements that indicate sympathy and support for DACA participants. But they’re not typically sharply critical of the administration.
Talking past each other enjoys bipartisan support. The data clearly illustrates the filter bubble problem – the notion that social networks tend to push us into our own spheres of like-minded people and beliefs. We see responses to questions and comments from constituents and others. We see statements that underscore the positions they have. But although Republicans and Democrats are talking about the issue (albeit the latter much more than the former), they are not talking to each other in any meaningful way, at least on social media.
Next we’ll see if bipartisan conversations take place behind the scenes so some form of legislative action results.