Do black lives matter to members of Congress? We took to Twitter to find out, analyzing the accounts of all 535 members of Congress from both parties to determine what they posted, if anything, after the string of shootings last week.
The look into lawmakers’ social media posts comes after a week of violence which has brought increased attention to the connection between race and policing. On July 5 in Baton Rouge, police tackled Alton Sterling, a black man, and shot him as he lay pinned to the ground. Sterling’s death sparked outrage and is being investigated by the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division. Next was the shooting of Philando Castile on July 6 in a suburb of St. Paul, Minnesota. Castile was stopped by an officer for a broken taillight and informed the officer he was armed and had a concealed carry permit. But as Castile reached for his wallet, the officer shot him four times.
The shootings of the two black men by police sparked outrage across the country, including in Dallas, where a Black Lives Matter protest took place on July 7. The protest was peaceful and featured positive interactions between demonstrators and police before a sniper opened fire, killing five officers and wounding seven others.
In the wake of these three tragedies, the responses by GOP members of Congress and their Democratic counterparts have differed dramatically.
A ThinkProgress analysis of the Twitter feeds of members of Congress found that while majorities of both parties tweeted about the Dallas shooting, Republicans were far less likely to tweet about Sterling and Castile than Democrats. While a majority of Democrats tweeted about the police shootings, nearly all Republicans ignored both shootings.
Our analysis found that 76 percent of Democratic and 62 percent of Republicans tweeted about the Dallas shootings. Out of the 231 Democratic members of Congress, 54 percent tweeted about Castile and 51 percent tweeted about Sterling. Just under 40 percent of the Democratic members of Congress actually used Sterling’s and Castile’s names in their tweets.
— Elijah E. Cummings (@RepCummings) July 7, 2016
Sandra Bland. Freddie Gray. Michael Brown. Walter Scott. Tamir Rice. Eric Garner. Now Alton Sterling & Philando Castile. #blacklivesmatter
— Elizabeth Warren (@SenWarren) July 7, 2016
Horrified by senseless murder of Dallas PD officers protecting peaceful protesters. My thoughts are w/families & law enforcement community
— Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (@SenatorShaheen) July 8, 2016
Among the 301 Republican members of Congress, just 8 percent tweeted about Castile and Sterling. Only six total GOP members of Congress, or less than 2 percent, mentioned Sterling by name, and only seven members mentioned Castile by name.
Heartbroken over the tragedy in #Dallas. My thoughts and prayers go out to the victims and those injured.
— Rep. Dave Brat (@RepDaveBrat) July 8, 2016
— Congressman Tom Rice (@RepTomRice) July 8, 2016
— Steve Chabot (@RepSteveChabot) July 8, 2016
Both independent members of Congress, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Sen. Angus King (I-ME), tweeted about the shootings of Sterling and Castile, as well as about the violence in Dallas.
In an overwhelmingly white Congress, the difference in the response to the Sterling and Castile shootings between Democratic and GOP lawmakers could reflect a broader ideological gap. A 2014 Washington Post-ABC News Poll found that perspectives regarding the relationship between race and policing varies widely depending on political ideology. More than 8 in 10 white Republicans believe the police treat African Americans and white people the same, while only about 4 in 10 Democrats agree. Evan Popp and Rachel Cain are interns at ThinkProgress.