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Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Republicans Ask \'Are You Better Off?\' and Many Reply \'Yes\'


Early on Tuesday, the first day of the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., Republicans took to Twitter and moved to shape the conversation on the Internet about the state of the country since President Obama was elected in 2008. Using Twitter's sponsored hashtag feature, they promoted a question that was anything but rhetorical: #areyoubetteroff

According to data reported by Twitter, more than 31,000 tweets used the hashtag #areyoubetteroff since its first mention on Sept ember 2, representing a modest response to the Republican National Committee's query. Some of the replies they expected, but many that perhaps they did not.

For some Twitter users, the answer to the R.N.C.'s question was clear: no.

Others let photographs they had taken answer the question:

But for many who replied, their answer looked to America's future, not its present. Lynn Davis, a candidate for West Virginia's House of Delegates, shared an answer common to many of the respondents:

Many also shared replies that appeared to reflect their perception of the dire economic straits faced by others, without mentioning their own condition directly:

While the Republicans may have hoped to build the case that most Americans feel they are not better off, they appeared to receive replies they did not intend. Many users on Twitter responded affirmatively, often describin g in vivid detail how their lives had improved since Mr. Obama's election. And many of the positive messages appeared on the R.N.C.'s own Web site, too:

One Twitter user also wondered if Mitt Romney and his running mate, Representative Paul D. Ryan, were better off since 2008:

The positive responses also raised the social and foreign policies that Mr. Obama is likely to highlight:

And one of Mr. Obama's actions on national security also provoked a variety of tongue-in-cheek responses like this one:

The Republican National Committee succeeded in touching off a wide-ranging discu ssion about whether Americans feel they are better off now than they were four years ago. But as often as the Twitter users who responded reinforced the Republican Party's message, those who are sympathetic to Mr. Obama were able to make the “#areyoubetteroff” hashtag assist the Democrats' cause, too.