Amid debates about the role social media has played in the spread of misinformation related to COVID-19 vaccines, roughly half of Americans say that they have been getting some (30%) or a lot (18%) of news and information about these vaccines on social media. The other half (51%) say they have been getting not much news or none at all this way, according to a new Pew Research Center survey conducted July 26-Aug. 8, 2021.

Given the focus on the role of social media as a source of information (or misinformation) about COVID-19 vaccines, Pew Research Center surveyed 11,178 U.S. adults between July 26-Aug. 8, 2021, to assess how important these platforms were to Americans in getting news about the coronavirus pandemic. Everyone who completed the survey is a member of the Center’s American Trends Panel (ATP), an online survey panel that is recruited through national, random sampling of residential addresses. This way nearly all U.S. adults have a chance of selection. The survey is weighted to be representative of the U.S. adult population by gender, race, ethnicity, partisan affiliation, education and other categories. Read more about the ATP’s methodology. Here are the questions used for this analysis, along with responses, and its methodology.

This is the latest report in Pew Research Center’s ongoing investigation of the state of news, information and journalism in the digital age, a research program funded by The Pew Charitable Trusts, with generous support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

A bar chart showing that roughly half of Americans get at least some news about COVID-19 vaccines on social media; still, most don’t see social media as an important way of keeping up with this news

While about half of U.S. adults get some or a lot of vaccine news on social media, just 6% find it the most important way, and 33% say it’s important but not the most important way. For the majority of Americans (60%), social media is not an important way to keep up with COVID-19 vaccine news. This includes the 31% who don’t get any vaccine information on social media at all.

The share of Americans who say social media is an important source of COVID-19 vaccine news increases among those who regularly go to social media platforms for news.

Among the 53% of Americans who say they regularly get news from at least one of the 10 social media sites asked about, close to three-quarters say they have gotten a lot (30%) or some (43%) news and information about COVID-19 vaccines on social media. And about six-in-ten of this group (61%) say that social media is an important way of keeping up with news about COVID-19 vaccines, though just 11% say it is the most important way.

A bar chart showing that about four-in-ten Americans who regularly get news on Snapchat and on Instagram say they are getting a lot of vaccine news on social media

Looking at individual social media sites, the vast majority of Americans who regularly get news from each site get at least some vaccine-related news on social media, and many get a lot. About four-in-ten Americans who regularly get news on Snapchat (39%) and Instagram (40%) say they have been getting a lot of vaccine-related news and information on social media. The same is true of about a third of Americans who regularly get news on Twitter, on Facebook and on TikTok. Closer to three-in-ten of those who regularly get news on LinkedIn, on YouTube and on Reddit say they are getting a lot of news about COVID-19 vaccines on social media. For two of the sites asked about – WhatsApp and Twitch – not enough Americans rely on them for news to be able to analyze their responses to these questions individually.

A bar chart showing that nearly 80% of Americans who regularly get news on Snapchat and on TikTok view social media as an important way of getting vaccine news

Three-quarters or more of Americans who regularly turn to Snapchat (79%), TikTok (77%) and Instagram (75%) for news say social media is an important way of keeping up with COVID-19 vaccine news. All in all, 60% or more of Americans who regularly get news from each of the eight sites individually analyzed say social media is an important way of keeping up with this news.    

The ultimate reach of COVID-19 vaccine information on social media is also impacted by the share of Americans who use each site for news. For example, while 31% of Americans say they turn to Facebook for news, just 4% turn to Snapchat for news.

Demographically, younger Americans and women are more likely than older Americans and men, respectively, to get COVID-19 vaccine news and information on social media and to say it’s an important way for them to get this type of news, but much of that is tied to the fact that these individuals are more likely to use social media for news in the first place.

Note: Here are the questions used for this analysis, along with responses, and its methodology.

Amy Mitchell  is director of journalism research at Pew Research Center.
Jacob Liedke  is a research assistant focusing on journalism and media at Pew Research Center.