Why Twitter provides an inaccurate picture of political attitudes in the country – the math

From Pew Research:

  • Only 22% of Americans use Twitter at all.
  • Only 39% of users with public accounts tweeted at least once about national politics, and that includes national politicians, institutions or groups, as well as civic behaviors such as voting.
  • Content explicitly related to these issues made up just 13% of all tweets.
  • A small share of users produce the vast majority of content related to national politics: 97% of tweets from U.S. adults that mentioned national politics over the study period came from just 10% of users.
  • Users who strongly disapprove of Trump generate 80% of all tweets from U.S. adults and 72% of tweets mentioning national politics. Those who strongly approve of Trump (who produce 11% of all tweets from U.S. adults) create 25% of tweets mentioning national politics. Taken together, strong disapprovers and strong approvers of Trump generate 97% of all tweets mentioning national politics from U.S. adults on Twitter.
  • Political tweeters are almost twice as likely as other Twitter users to say the people they follow on Twitter have political beliefs similar to their own.

So (1) relatively few Americans use Twitter at all; (2) relatively few Twitter users talk about politics at all; (3) almost all political tweets are coming from a small slice of people; (4) the views of that slice of people are skewed in one direction; and (5) those people live in an ideological bubble, following only/mostly people who share their beliefs and attacking people who disagree all the time.

This is fascinating because this small group of people are driving substantially all news content in the country. Much of the news media doesn’t even get out and “collect” news stories in the real world anymore; they just write about the garbage they read on Twitter. When it seems like the folks in the media don’t sound like the people you are seeing in the real America – that they are more toxic, more lathered up about a particular issue, more biased – that’s because they only see the ideas bouncing around a small community that lives to reinforce each others’ biases.

I think if you look at the people who reliably consume corporate media content in the country, the numbers look pretty much like they do above. It’s a loud conversation being had by a small number of people who only want to listen to people who think like they do.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s