Democrats, 'very conservative' say social networks important for tracking political news

Pew Internet & American Life Project

With more than half the people in the United States using sites like Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn, a Pew survey released Tuesday looks at how they engage with politics in those media. Despite "the social media election" meme, most people said such sites were "not at all important" for political activities like following news, debating with others or finding people who feel the same.

Two groups who were more likely than others to say the sites were "very important" for following political news were Democrats and those who identified as "very conservative." African-Americans were more likely than whites to say social networking sites were important for political news; users 18-29 were more likely than older users to think similarly.

But "the clear majority of SNS [social networking sites] users do not report that their use of the sites has changed their political views or activity," the survey says. Put another way, here's scientific proof your family members should keep their thoughts about President Obama and/or Mitt Romney out of your Facebook feed. Speaking of which:

The SNS users who identify themselves as very conservative are the most likely to say all or almost all of what they post is about politics. There are not enough cases for further analysis, but it appears that the very conservative have a greater share of their postings relate to politics than other ideological groups. Similarly, the social networkers who are very conservative are somewhat more likely to have friends who post a lot about politics on the sites.

But those folks were drawn from a small pool. Eighty-four percent of Republicans, 79 percent of Democrats and 86 percent of independents said "little or nothing of their recent postings on the sites has related to politics."

Maybe that's a commonsense approach. Only 10 percent of people 'fessed up to posting "too frequently about politics or political issues." Eighteen percent of people said they'd "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 "Those who talk the most and post the most about politics are also more likely than others to have drawn a strong negative reaction to the political material they contribute," the survey says.

Related studies from Pew: Obama campaign uses online media far better than Romney | Romney, Obama narratives overwhelmingly negative as journalists lose control of campaign coverage | Facebook users more politically engaged than similar Americans

Related resource: 25 ways to use Facebook, Twitter, Storify to improve political coverage

  • Andrew Beaujon

    Andrew Beaujon reported on the media for Poynter from 2012 to 2015. He was previously arts editor at and managing editor of Washington City Paper. He's the author of the 2006 book "Body Piercing Saved My Life," about Christian rock and evangelical Christian culture.


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