Updated Jan 19, 2019

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has more Twitter power than media, establishment

Note: Kamala Harris tweets under both a private and a Senate account. Her total is combined; Data: CrowdTangle; Chart: Chris Canipe/Axios

A freshman congresswoman who has held office for less than a month is dominating the Democratic conversation on Twitter, generating more interactions — retweets plus likes — than the six most prolific news organizations combined over the last 30 days.

The big picture: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is miles behind President Trump in the influence of her Twitter account. But he's the president — she's a new member of Congress who shot out of a cannon following the midterm elections. And she has far more power on Twitter than the most prominent Democrats, including the congressional leaders and the likely 2020 presidential candidates.

Ben Thompson — founder of Stratechery, and one of the most pioneering online thinkers — points out that neither Ocasio-Cortez's "background nor her position as a first-time representative are ... noteworthy enough to be driving the national political conversation. And yet she is doing exactly that."

  • "In short, she is the first — but certainly not the last — of an entirely new archetype: a politician that is not only fueled by the Internet, but born of it."

Antonio García Martínez — author of "Chaos Monkeys," about Silicon Valley — wrote in Wired that she's "a harbinger of a new American political reality":

  • "[W]hen a 29-year-old former bartender of Puerto Rican descent beats a senior Democratic leader of the House, and then proceeds to set the political agenda during her first week in office, it’s more than a cute social media story."
  • "AOC is one answer to the bigger question of how social media impacts not just the portrayal of political power, but its seizure and exercise."

The main takeaways:

  • Among 2020 Democratic hopefuls, Sen. Kamala Harris (combining her Senate and personal accounts) had the highest Twitter engagement at 4.7 million interactions over the last 30 days — but that's still way behind Ocasio-Cortez.
  • Even former President Barack Obama was far behind Ocasio-Cortez, at 5.3 million interactions (but she's a lot more active on Twitter).
  • Other notable Democrats:
    • Bernie Sanders: 3.2m (combined Senate and personal account)
    • Nancy Pelosi: 2.5m
    • Chuck Schumer: 1.9m
    • Elizabeth Warren: 1.5m (combined Senate and personal account)
    • Beto O'Rourke: 1.5m
  • News organizations' metrics do not include numbers from their star journalists. CNN's Jim Acosta generated 2.2 million interactions, compared to the network's 3.3 million.
  • On the right, individual personalities out-index partisan news organizations. The biggest conservative megaphones — aside from the president — are Charlie Kirk (7.8 million interactions) and Donald Trump Jr. (2.4m)
  • The volume of tweets is an important variable to consider:
    • Trump: 9.1 tweets per day
    • Ocasio-Cortez: 7.2
    • Harris: 10.5
    • Obama: 0.4
    • CNN: 136

Two notes about the data: Not listed is Fox News, which has boycotted Twitter since November. These numbers do not account for Twitter activity from bots.

Note: This article was updated on Jan. 19 to reflect the most recent data.

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