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Social Media Shows Divided Support for Paul Ryan's Budget Proposal

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When Chairman of the House Budget Committee Paul Ryan (R-WI) introduced his budget proposal on March 20, it wasn't exactly to an audience of bipartisan support.  The proposal seeks to reduce outlays by $6.2 trillion over the next decade through a systematic restructuring of, primarily, entitlement programs such as Medicare and Medicaid.  Tax increases are out, with the budget introducing tax breaks across the board with the biggest decrease from the top bracket. 

"We don't want to turn the safety net into a hammock that lulls able-bodied people into lives of dependency," said Ryan in a press conference.

Various extra budget cuts would be raked in from other areas of high government spending to counteract the sky-high deficit with the goal of a balanced budget by 2040. 

In true political fashion, there is considerable controversy over the proposed budget.  Democrats claim that the budget is a targeted approach against the poor, elderly, disabled, young, veterans, jobless, and students.

"The Ryan budget is endorsed by @MittRomney, would end the Medicare guarantee and shift health care costs to seniors," tweeted Congressman David Cicilline (D-RI).

Some Tea Party supporters say that waiting thirty years to balance the budget is too long.  Many Republicans see the sacrifices made by the budget as a necessary step in regaining control of the debt crisis. 

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney praised the budget, labeling it an "excellent piece of work" that is "very much needed." 

But what is all this doing for Paul Ryan's reputation?

From blog posts to Twitter mentions, public sentiment about Ryan is undecided.  Analytics from OhMyGov show a divided social media opinion of the congressman and his budget, with social media commentary staying tight at 34.3 percent positive, 32.2 percent neutral, and 33.3 percent negative over the past week. 

Mentions of Ryan on Twitter skyrocketed, to over 2,500 on March 20.  Four outgoing tweets from Ryan the day of his budget proposal, including the one below, were each re-tweeted over 50 times. 

And while re-tweets are not an automatic show of support (and indeed the added user commentary attached to each re-tweet ranged from words of solidarity to biting sarcasm), they show a level of attention focused on the young congressman during the past week.   

On Facebook, however, support was lukewarm. The Facebook "Like" button is a way to connect users with a product, organization or, in this case, congressman. The number of 'likes' Ryan received was low until it spiked on March 20, the day Ryan released the new budget proposal. 

Before the budget proposal, Ryan regularly earned less than 50 new Facebook fans ('Likes') a day, hovering between an average of 30-40.  March 20 saw an increase to over 300 new fans in one day, repeated on March 21.  While an interesting trend, it's hardly sweeping support.

In comparison, when it was announced that Osama bin Laden was killed, President Obama was greeted by 80,000 new 'Likes' in a day.  

In the past, OhMyGov has been able to link Facebook activity to polling data, suggesting a correlation between Facebook 'Likes' and overall candidate support.  Ryan's growth in popularity on Facebook, despite a barrage of negative comments on other social media platforms, reveals some support for his work, but it's likely not enough to win over social media influencers who can spread support for his budget. 

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