When it comes to a social media presence for the leading state senators and representatives, it’s hit or miss.
Caucuses from both parties in both chambers of the General Assembly have social media platforms, but neither the Senate president nor the House speaker are on social media like Facebook or Twitter.
Carl Palmer, associate professor of politics and government at Illinois State University, said for someone like Speaker Michael Madigan, the platforms aren’t necessary. “Madigan has the name recognition, he has the power and influence.”
Palmer also notes that some older politicians may not see the importance of social media at all.
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“There are older political actors, older political figures, that are just more resistant to adapting and changing,” Palmer said.
Madigan spokesman Steve Brown said he hasn’t examined the issue of social media and didn’t want to comment.
Vicki Crawford, spokeswoman for leading Republican Rep. Jim Durkin — who has a personal Facebook page but no Twitter account — said, "The House Republican Caucus … has a robust social media presence.” They post videos, photographs, infographics and articles. Crawford said social media helps “get our message out quickly."
In the Senate, President John Cullerton isn’t on either Facebook or Twitter. However, Cullerton Spokesman John Patterson said "Practical use of social media tools and strategies is a key part of any modern, professional communications and media department. And that’s why we use them."
Leading Republican Christine Radogno has both a legislator and a personal page on Facebook; she has a Twitter account, too, but it features no posts.
Sen. Radogno said in a statement that social media has become an important tool to engage constituents more organically and personally and “foster an environment where it's possible for a lawmaker to engage with the public directly.”
Last week Gov. Bruce Rauner’s office announced that he is now on the social media platform Snapchat, a program that lets users send pictures with captions back and forth.
Rauner Press Secretary Catherine Kelly said “Gov. Rauner uses Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and, more recently, Snapchat to share what he's doing around Illinois and how his proposed reforms will improve our state.”
There are upsides and downsides to statehouse politicians using social media.
Palmer said one positive is putting constituents in closer contact with their lawmakers. Another is initiating younger generations into politics.
“They’re much more apt to use Facebook or Twitter or Snapchat to communicate,” Palmer said of millennials and their even younger peers, “so this is a way to bring them into politics.”
A key disadvantage is that controversial posts can forever haunt.
“It’s very easy to say something that is inappropriate, and once it’s out there you can’t take it back,” Palmer said.