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Politicians and the Policy Agenda: Does Use of Twitter by the U.S. Congress Direct New York Times Content?

The conventional understanding of how elected officials affect the policy agenda is based on the argument that they use symbols and rhetoric to propagate a policy problem, primarily through the traditional media. The arguments presented in this article are largely consistent with this claim but account for the function of social media. More specifically, and framed by indexing theory, we argue that social media enhances opportunities for policy agenda builders in the U.S. Congress to share information with journalists. Across the key policy issues of 2013, tests for congruence between politicians' Twitter posts and New York Times articles confirm a connection, particularly for the policy issue areas of the economy, immigration, health care, and marginalized groups. Simultaneous discussion and debate between Democrats and Republicans about a particular policy issue area, however, negatively impact how the New York Times indexes a particular issue.