Social media use and politics


If you’re active on Facebook, Twitter or any other social media sites, you’ve probably noticed there’s an election coming up. Nearly everyone seems to be sharing their political views. According to reports from Pew Internet & American Life at least half of US adults are on social media networks…

Overall, the survey found that 80% of American adults use the internet and 66% of those online adults participate in social networking sites (SNS) such as Facebook, LinkedIn, or Google+. That amounts to more than half of the entire U.S. population who are SNS users.

Although most of them report that they aren’t very political on the sites…

The vast majority of SNS users (84%) say they have posted little or nothing related to politics in their recent status updates, comments, and links. Some 63% of SNS users say they posted nothing at all and another 21% say they posted “just a little.” Only 6% of these users say that most or all of what they posted recently on social networking sites is related to politics, issues, or the 2012 campaign. Another 10% say some of what they have recently posted has been about politics.

The survey is from earlier this year – based on my own experience, I feel that statistic might change if they did the same survey now – or any time before the election. That being said, the rest of the statistics on who is using social media tools are interesting.

It seems that there’s a pretty even split of political parties online…

There were no statistically significant differences among Democrats, Republicans, and independents in their overall use of SNS [social network sites]. All were equally likely at least to be social networking site users.

So you’d think that social networks might be a place where unlike minds can come together to share ideas and information. After all Pew indicates…

  • There is notable disagreement among friends on social networking sites when it comes to politics.
  • 38% of SNS users have discovered through their friends’ postings that their political beliefs were different than they thought they were.

But it turns out that some folks aren’t interested in different opinions..

  • 18% of SNS users have blocked, unfriended, or hidden someone on the site because the person either posted too much about politics, disagreed with political posts, or bothered friends with political posts. And 16% of SNS users have friended someone whose political posts have appealed to them.

Yet other folks are inspired to political action and/or a change of heart based on social network posts…

  • 25% of SNS users say they have become more active in a political issue after discussing it or reading posts about it on the sites.
  • 16% of SNS users say they have changed their views about a political issue after discussing it or reading posts about it on the sites.

It turns out that some demographics consider the social media sites more important for politics…

  • Democrats who use social networking sites are more likely than others to say that the sites are important.
  • First, SNS-using blacks are significantly more likely than SNS-using whites to feel that the sites are important for these political activities.
  • Second, younger SNS users (those ages 18-29) are more likely than older site users to think the sites are important in this way.
  • Similarly, the social networkers who are very conservative are somewhat more likely to have friends who post a lot about politics on the sites.

So it’s a little bit of a mixed bag in terms of who is going political online and in what ways. TechPresident is a great site for delving deeper into some of the specific ways people are using the Internet towards a political goal.