Updated Jan 29, 2022 - Politics & Policy

America can't quit polarizing politicians

Data: NewsWhip; Chart: Kavya Beheraj/Axios

New data finds that the nation's most polarizing politicians are often the ones that garner the most attention online.

Why it matters: Online engagement helps politicians build a bigger national profile and more fundraising power, incentivizing them to be more outrageous, more polarizing and more divisive.

By the numbers: Topping the list are lightning rods from each party — politicians who fire up their base while providing ammunition for the other party — according to exclusive data from NewsWhip.

  • Sen. Ted Cruz and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez generate the most social media interactions per article, an indicator of how much the internet lights up in response to their name.

The most impactful news makers aren't necessarily the buzziest. President Biden ranks lowest on interactions per article among 23 well-known, active politicians Axios analyzed — above only Sen. Chuck Schumer.

  • Moderate Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema — who stood in the way of Biden's $2 trillion spending plan and became villains of the left — are also at the bottom of the list, just above the president.

Between the lines: The politicians who drive the highest average interactions are often more talked-about by their critics than their fans.

  • Nine of the 10 stories about Ocasio-Cortez from the last year were from right-wing outlets. Just two of the top stories about Rep. Taylor Greene were from such outlets, per NewsWhip data.

The big picture: The data supports a broader trend of American politics becoming a breeding ground for more extreme politicians to run — and sometimes win — elections.

Editor's note: This story was first published on Jan. 25.

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