Abstract: Given the politicization of European integration, effective public communication by the European Union (EU) has gained importance. Especially for rather detached supranational executives, social media platforms offer unique opportunities to communicate to and engage with European citizens. Yet, do supranational actors exploit this potential? This article provides a bird’s eye view by quantitatively describing almost one million tweets from 113 supranational EU accounts in the 2009–2021 period, focusing especially on the comprehensibility and publicity of supranational messages. We benchmark these characteristics against large samples of tweets from national executives, other regional organizations, and random Twitter users. We show that the volume of supranational Twitter has been increasing, that it relies strongly on the multimedia features of the platform, and outperforms communication from and engagement with other political executives on many dimensions. However, we also find a highly technocratic language in supranational messages, skewed user engagement metrics, and high levels of variation across institutional and individual actors and their messages. We discuss these findings in light of the legitimacy and public accountability challenges that supranational EU actors face and derive recommendations for future research on supranational social media messages.
Keywords: European Union; political communication; politicization; social media; text analysis