President Obama took his message public last night in an effort to convince Congress — and the world — of his plan for military action against Syria. As world opinion has evolved, and before a vote has gotten anywhere near Capitol Hill, how have politicians used Twitter to take their own arguments to the people, and to find out what they think?
Before the speech
Prior to the President’s 16-minute speech last night, the @WhiteHouse tweeted to encourage citizens to tune in.
At the same time, world leaders used Twitter to announce the latest news on the crisis:
In the days leading up to last night’s speech, members of the House and Senate were working out their own positions on Syria, many using Twitter to gather constituent opinions to help shape their own responses to the President’s plan.
@JaredPolis asked his constituents to suggest background reading:
Sounds like I will be voting on military action in Syria! Send me information/articles to read as I study the issue to make my decision— Jared Polis (@jaredpolis) August 31, 2013
Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (@RepEBJ) asked voters to help her decide:
Please let me know via twitter your thoughts on the crisis in Syria.— US Rep E.B.Johnson (@RepEBJ) September 6, 2013
@RepAndyHarrisMD shared the opinions of his constituents:
Constituents in MD-1 oppose action 1518 to 37 according to calls, mail and emails. Planning to attend the briefing on Syria tonight.— Rep. Andy Harris, MD (@RepAndyHarrisMD) September 9, 2013
And those who came to a decision said so on Twitter:
I plan to vote against military strikes in #Syria & am encouraged by int’l efforts toward a diplomatic resolution of chemical warfare— Rep Robert Pittenger (@RepPittenger) September 10, 2013
We are wary & weary of war. Assad should surrender chemical weapons so we can find a peaceful solution to quagmire in #Syria.— Charles Rangel (@cbrangel) September 10, 2013
Meanwhile, the world was watching.
Outside the WH right now… pic.twitter.com/oAeqkiYaDO— jennifer bendery (@jbendery) September 11, 2013
Click image to explore interactive version of this chart.
The global conversation
Map of geotagged Tweets around last night’s speech. Click image to explore interactive map, made with CartoDB.
As the speech began, it was relayed live on Twitter too. The @WhiteHouse live-tweeted the President’s speech as it happened. This was one of the most-retweeted from their account last night:
President Obama: “I will not put American boots on the ground in #Syria. I will not pursue an open-ended action like Iraq or Afghanistan.”— The White House (@WhiteHouse) September 11, 2013
Live-tweeting an event like this broadcasts the message and extends the reach of those who will see it — the @WhiteHouse tweeted 26 quotes from the speech. As of the end of the evening, Tweets posted by @WhiteHouse during the speech got 8,821 Retweets and 1,869 favorites — that’s 10x the number of Retweets and 6x the number of favorites @WhiteHouse sees on an average day.
Click image to explore an interactive version of this chart.
As viewers absorbed the implications of the speech, politicians again turned to Twitter with instant reactions, and to connect directly with voters:
Still no explanation of steps 2, 3, 4, etc. and consequences of going to war in Syria. I am still a NO.— Jason Chaffetz (@jasoninthehouse) September 11, 2013
I think President Obama was compelling and convincing— Rep. Keith Ellison (@keithellison) September 11, 2013
America should bring world together to condemn/penalize Syria. Such an effort, however, is best pursued thru int’l negotiation & diplomacy— Senator Jeff Merkley (@SenJeffMerkley) September 11, 2013
The President failed to make the case that we should commit an act of war in #Syria. I remain a firm No vote.— Thomas Massie (@RepThomasMassie) September 11, 2013
Do you know of any other innovative uses of Twitter? Let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.