It’s difficult to tell exactly why follower counts go up and down, and the counts are often affected by Twitter banning bot accounts en masse. Not everyone following a specific politician is a supporter.
Still, the pattern suggests that tens of thousands of liberals may be leaving the site while conservatives are joining or becoming more active, shifting the demographics of the site under Musk’s ownership. The changes are in line with a trend that began in April, when Musk announced his intention to buy the company.
On average, Republicans gained 8,000 followers and Democrats lost 4,000. For its analysis, The Post analyzed data from ProPublica’s Represent tool, which tracks congressional Twitter activity.
Musk and Twitter did not respond to requests for comment.
Musk bought Twitter for $44 billion late last month having pledged to bring his vision of free speech absolutism to the site. The day he took over, he said Twitter wouldn’t become “a free-for-all hellscape, where anything can be said with no consequences!” But users immediately started testing the boundaries of the new site under Musk, prompting hate speech to briefly surge.
Since then, Musk launched and rolled back Twitter Blue Verified, a $7.99 monthly membership that puts a check mark next to any account that pays. The move prompted an explosion of fake accounts. Musk also fired about half the staff, and required the rest of his workers to pledge to work long hours or leave the company, significantly reducing the number of people who are policing the site.
Musk also has restored several major rule-breaking accounts, including former president Donald Trump’s, following an unrepresentative and unscientific Twitter poll. On Thursday, after a similar poll, he said he would grant “general amnesty” for all banned accounts that didn’t post spam or break the law.
Advertisers have been fleeing, raising doubts about the site’s ability to make money. More than a third of Twitter’s top 100 marketers have not advertised on the social media network in the two weeks before Tuesday, according to a Washington Post analysis.
Musk says he is a political moderate, but has agreed with right-wing figures on the site who accuse Twitter’s previous management of being biased against conservatives. The day before the midterms, he called on his followers to vote Republican, breaking with tradition of other social media CEOs who typically do not explicitly endorse one party over another.
The right wing and conservatives for years have accused Twitter of censorship with no proof. Many have cheered Musk’s takeover, saying it’s a reason to return to the site.
On the day Musk’s purchase was finalized, Republican members of Congress saw their follower counts skyrocket. Greene gained some 37,000 followers, as did Jordan, then the chairman of the House Freedom Caucus. That same day, Democrats’ follower counts plummeted, with Warren losing nearly 19,000 followers and Schiff losing 13,000.
The trend continued for days, with prominent online Republicans gaining thousands of followers and Democrats losing them.
The same thing happened Nov. 19, when Musk announced that he would be reactivating Trump’s account after holding a poll in which any user could vote yes or no. Greene gained an additional 45,000 followers, and Warren and Sanders each lost more than 22,000. In the past month, Greene has increased her following by 330,000, a 28 percent gain, and Jordan by 290,000, a nearly 10 percent rise.