09 July 2009

The Stimulus Discussion: Anything But Stimulating

Some Republicans think they've found the issue that will finally damage President Obama politically. They're arguing the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 - known by most as the "Economic Stimulus Package" - hasn't worked. It strikes me as a potentially damaging accusation - if it's true.

I've been following stories in the mainstream media about investments from the stimulus bill. There's been some very good reporting in the Atlanta Journal Constitution by Kristi E. Swartz, a business reporter who has covered media and technology. I asked Ms. Swartz via Twitter direct message if she thought the stimulus bill has had an impact there. Her response: "Frankly I think it's too early to tell." This isn't a surprising response. It makes a great deal of sense to me.

Some Republicans are saying already, however, that the verdict is in and the stimulus bill is a flop. Of course, some GOP stalwarts have gotten a little carried away with their claims, but I think at least one argument from a Republican Congressman merits some attention:

In the social media world, the White House responded quickly to criticism via a blog post from OMB Director Orzag (himself a blogger when he was at GAO).

But has the discussion resonated at all online?

Let's compare online discussions (at least in blogs) about the stimulus package to, say, climate change:

Climate change is a much more popular topic online - two or three times more popular.

OK, but that's all blogs, and climate change is a global issue while the stimulus package is purely a US issue. What if we just look at the people you'd expect to be all over this - the top US political blogs on each side of the ideological spectrum?

I borrowed a page from the Virtual Vantage Points playbook (since I wrote the page I don't think they'll mind) and combined the feeds of six top US-based conservative political blogs and did the same with six of their liberal counterparts. I then ran both feeds through the cloud generator at Wordle to see how prominent the discussion about the stimulus package was.

Here's a graphical depiction of the current discussion from Michelle Malkin, Hugh Hewitt, Red State, Free Republic, Powerline and Instapundit:

And here's what they're talking about today the Huffington Post (political feed), Daily Kos (front page), Eschaton, Talking Points Memo, MyDD, and Americablog:

Of course these aren't the only bloggers but they're representative of the more popular ones.

Notice what word you DON'T see there? At all?

It seems the messaging the GOP is pushing about the stimulus isn't stimulating discussions online, at least not yet.

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