Thursday, July 7

Democrats More Likely To Mention Politics On Twitter Profiles, Study Finds


Topline

Despite Twitter’s reputation as a political hotbed, most U.S. adults don’t use political language in their bios, though Democrats, people who tweet often and people with many followers were among the most likely to do so, according to data published Thursday by Pew Research Center.

Key Facts

Just 6% of U.S. adults use political language on their Twitter profiles, including 7% of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents and 2% of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents, Pew found.

This confirmed data suggesting that most political content on Twitter comes from a small group of users—a 2018-2019 Pew survey of tweets by U.S. adults found that 97% of tweets mentioning national politics came from just 10% of users, while nearly two-thirds of users didn’t tweet about national politics even once.

Thursday’s survey found that users who averaged 20 or more tweets a month were about six times more likely to mention politics on their profiles than users who tweeted less often, reinforcing previous findings that frequent tweeters are more politically engaged on the site than less frequent tweeters.

Users in the top 25% of following size were about eight times more likely to mention politics in their profiles, about twice as likely to list their occupations and about four times as likely to name their employers than users with fewer followers, Pew found.

Twitter users were more likely to mention personal information than politics on their profiles, with 23% mentioning their jobs, 12% citing hobbies and interests, and 8% referencing family.

Pew analyzed data collected on January 31 from 1,021 active, valid Twitter accounts that had participated in a previous Pew survey.

Key Background

Twitter has often been accused of political discrimination by critics on the right. In 2018, then Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey conceded most Twitter employees leaned leftward, but insisted this did not influence how they applied the company’s policies. Social media platforms like Parler and Gab have positioned themselves as right-wing Twitter alternatives, though they have remained marginal compared to Twitter, which boasts 229 million active users. Twitter’s most prominent right-wing challenger is Donald Trump’s “censorship-free” Truth Social, which became the most downloaded free app on Apple’s App Store despite being plagued with glitches and fake accounts. Elon Musk’s proposed $44 billion purchase of Twitter has been popularly viewed as a win for the right, as Musk has accused the platform of suppressing free speech.

Contra

Twitter’s internal research suggests its algorithms tend to promote content from right-wing politicians and media outlets over content from left-wing sources. A study by researchers from MIT, the University of Exeter and Yale found that, while Republicans were about four times more likely to be suspended from Twitter than Democrats, Republicans were also more likely than Democrats to post misinformation that could violate the platform’s content guidelines. The study, which has not yet been peer reviewed, did not unearth evidence of bias by Twitter.

Tangent

Mentioning preferred pronouns such as “she/her” and “he/him” in Twitter bios was rare among all groups, but more common among Democrats. Pew found that 4% of U.S. adults mentioned pronouns, including 6% of Democrats but none of the Republicans included in Pew’s 1,021-account sample.

Further Reading

“#ArrestTrumpNow Trending On Twitter – Is This Rhetoric Bad For Democracy?” (Forbes)





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