Congress isn't known for its popularity and the results of a new study may have members questioning their celebrity even further.
Though lawmakers boast an average of 6,000 followers on Twitter--some have more than a million--nearly 40 percent of those accounts may be fake, according to an Advocacy Media check using the Twitter tool StatusPeople.
An average of 36 percent of accounts following representatives on Twitter are fake or inactive, the study showed. About 38 percent of those following senators are fake. That breakdown held for accounts from both parties, within a few percentage points, and all congressional Twitter accounts had at least some fake followers.
Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo., who won a July House Democrats' social media contest for earning the most Facebook fans, Twitter followers and YouTube subscribers, has more fake followers than any other member on Twitter. Of his more than 35,000 followers, more than half are fake.
Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., had the next highest counts of fake or inactive followers. Pelosi, who has more than 220,000 followers, and McCain, who has more than 1.7 million, have follower counts that are about 68 percent fake.The findings raise questions about how useful Twitter is as a tool for engaging constituents, according to Jon Tilton, Advocacy Media's general manager.
"This chips away at the validity of Twitter as a platform or real people communicating their thoughts with their [representative] on Twitter," he said in a release.
The presidential candidate Twitter accounts are famously plagued with similar problems. Last month, Mitt Romney's campaign publicly denied buying more Twitter followers after a spike in traffic. And last year, former Speaker Newt Gingrich's campaign admitted buying fake follower accounts--so much so that more than 80 percent of his million-plus followers were fake.
Of President Obama's 18.6 million Twitter followers, just 30 percent are presumably real users. By comparison, about 58 percent of Romney's 857,260 followers are real users.