There is a sense in politics that supporters of the opposition are angrier than those who favor the rulers. But is that really true? After all, there is always something to be mad about in politics, no matter who is in power.
Here is some data to back it up, courtesy of a new report from the Pew Research Center: After the election of Donald Trump, reactions to links posted by congressional Democrats became a lot angrier.
To get this data, Pew collected and analyzed 450,000 Facebook posts by members of Congress. By collecting these posts, Pew was able to analyze how Facebook users responded to them, thanks to the “reactions” feature rolled out by the platform in early 2016. And that strongly supports the theory of an angry opposition.
As the chart above shows, a few months prior to Trump being elected, Republican anger was high while Democrats seemed relatively calm. Immediately after the election, Democrats overtake Republicans in terms of percent of reactions that are “angry,” and that proportion continues to grow while that of the now-ruling party remains pretty stable. These are specifically reactions to posts that link to national news, meaning people are likely expressing anger toward the news item, not the person posting it.
Another goal of the Pew study was to find out whether the news outlets congresspeople link to are split on party lines. They are. “Nearly half of the links to national news outlets that members of Congress shared on Facebook were to outlets predominantly linked to by members of just one party,” they write. Breitbart, for example, was linked to almost 700 times by Republicans, and exactly zero times by Democrats. For the Huffington Post, it was Democrats, 1,100, and Republicans, 89.
The data supports the notion that supporters of the opposition party are generally more upset about the national news, but the magnitude of anger among Democrats is exceptionally high during the Trump era. The proportion of “angry” reactions to posts by Republicans never exceeded 10% even during the tail end of Barack Obama’s presidency. Yet it reached almost 20% for Democratic posts in the months after Trump’s election, alongside a slight rise in Republican posts as well.
So according to Facebook, America is getting angrier, and Democrats are the angriest of the bunch.