JEFFERSON CITY (AP) — During his first 100 days in office, Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens has trained with firefighters and police, announced a parental leave policy and various business expansions, and answered online questions from constituents.
He has broadcast it all on his personal Facebook page.
Like President Donald Trump, Greitens has used social media as a primary — and sometimes his only — means of public communication. It’s an approach unlike any used by previous Missouri governors.
“The governor has said from the beginning that his top priority is the people, and (social media is) where the people are,” said Greitens spokesman Parker Briden, who has shot some of the videos posted on the governor’s site.
Political use of social media has been growing nationally. In the 2008 presidential primary election, 10 percent of people said they followed candidates or got involved through social media. In 2016, the number of adults turning to social media for presidential election news had more than doubled to about 24 percent, according to the Pew Research Center.
In an increasingly digital world, there’s more demand for executive politicians to interact with constituents daily, said Josh Scacco, a political scientist and professor at Purdue University in Indiana. Social media can create that sense of personal interaction.
Andy Hart, a Greitens supporter who follows the governor on Facebook, said Greitens’ posts have made the governor seem more genuine and have helped Hart stay up-to-date on the governor’s activities. It also allows him to get news “right from the horse’s mouth,” he said.
“It’s nice knowing what he’s up to,” Hart said. “It seems like he’s everywhere all the time.”
But Greitens’ reliance on social media has not played well with all.
“He tends to post a lot of photos of himself working out and stuff, which strikes me as gross,” said Sarah Smith, a Kansas City resident who didn’t vote for Greitens but follows him on Facebook.
“I wish that there was more content,” she said. “I don’t see that in his policies, and if he believes in his policies, I wish he conveyed that more.”
Saint Louis University political scientist Ken Warren said bypassing the traditional news media to better shape his own message is “an arrogant posture” and “not in the mainstream of democracy.”
Some experts say there can be drawbacks to that kind of filtering.
“If someone is only getting their news from social media and from politicians, then they’re going to miss is the hard questions that might come from reporters,” said Laurie Rice, a political science professor at Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville who studies social media and politics.