Political content makes up a relatively small share of what ordinary users post on Twitter. And only a small share of adult Twitter users in the United States – mainly older Americans, Democrats and those who tweet the most – include political language in their profiles on the site. Instead, it is much more common for these users to mention things like their occupation or their hobbies, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis.
When users create a Twitter account, they are prompted to provide different pieces of information that are displayed on their profile. They are required to provide a display name to initiate a new account, but other elements – such as their profile picture, banner picture, bio, location and website – are left to the discretion of the user. All of these elements can be modified at any time over the life of the account.
Roughly three-quarters (73%) of U.S. adult Twitter users include at least some identifiable text in their profile, but 27% include no text whatsoever apart from the required display and username fields, according to the Center’s analysis.
The Twitter profile is an integral part of users’ experience on the platform. It serves as an opportunity for users to craft a public identity and shape how they are perceived by other users. This analysis examines how U.S. adults on Twitter interact with the platform’s functionality and the kinds of information they typically share on their profile.
This analysis is based on the Twitter profiles of 1,021 survey respondents who volunteered a Twitter handle (their unique username preceded by an “@” sign) for research purposes and whose handle was valid and active as of Jan. 31, 2022. Everyone analyzed in this study 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 – who indicated that they use Twitter. Researchers from the Center manually examined these profiles and classified their content to determine if they mentioned a variety of key themes and topics. The final identified topics included references to each respondent’s job or occupation; hobbies and interests; family relationships; political affiliations; religious beliefs; and preferred pronouns.
More about the design of the survey in which these handles were initially collected can be found in the 2021 report’s methodology. This coding methodology provides more information about how the Center classified the different elements of people’s profiles.
Users who do choose to customize their profile details mention a range of topics and issues. Most notably, around a quarter of U.S. adults on Twitter (23%) mention their job or occupation on their profile. And one-third of these users – the equivalent of 8% of all U.S. adult Twitter users – directly mention the name of their employer or affiliated organization.
Substantially fewer users – around one-in-ten – mention topics such as their hobbies or other interests, or their families or familial roles. Meanwhile, just 6% include explicitly political language that suggests a position or support for a political party, ideology, figure, organization or major political movement. And just 4% each mention their religious beliefs or preferred pronouns (such as “she/her” or “they/them”).
Democrats and Republicans are similarly likely to mention their occupations or family relationships in their Twitter profiles. But while it is relatively rare for members of either party to include explicitly political language in their profiles, Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents are more likely than Republicans and Republican leaners to do so (7% vs. 2%). Similarly, 6% of Democratic users – but not a single Republican in the Center’s representative sample – mentioned their preferred pronouns in their profile.
Along with Democrats, older Twitter users are more likely to mention their political leanings on their profile: 12% of users ages 50 and older do so, compared with just 4% of users ages 18 to 49. In a 2019 analysis, the Center found that older users produced an outsize share of political tweets. Older Americans are also more likely than younger users to mention their family relationships (16% vs. 6%).
The presence of political language in users’ profiles also varies by how frequently U.S. adults tweet. Among users who averaged 20 or more tweets per month over the lifetime of their account, 13% mention politics in their profiles, compared with just 2% among less prolific tweeters. These findings align with the results of a 2021 Center study, which found that the most frequent tweeters are more politically inclined than less active tweeters.
Users in the top 25% of followers are also more likely than those with fewer followers to include political language in their profiles: 17% do so, compared with 2% of those with fewer followers. Along with politics, this group is around twice as likely as those with fewer followers to list their occupation in their Twitter profile (37% vs. 19%) and roughly four times as likely to specifically mention the name of their organization (18% vs. 4%).
Most adult Twitter users in U.S. include a photo, but few fill out their profiles completely
When it comes to other elements of their profiles, most U.S. adult Twitter users (86%) include a profile picture other than the default anonymous avatar assigned to new accounts. And nearly six-in-ten (58%) add a banner picture.
The design of this study makes it impossible to know whether a profile photo contains an actual image of the account holder. But among those who include a picture somewhere on their profile, 69% use an image that is not a meme, stock photo or public domain image, and that shows someone with discernible facial features who is neither a public figure nor fictional character.
Beyond pictures, more than half of U.S. adult Twitter users customize the bio (59%) and location (56%) fields of their profile, while around a quarter (23%) add a website URL. Some 51% of the profiles mention a real geographic location within the United States.
Overall, 17% of U.S. adult Twitter users include all five of these elements: a profile photo, a banner picture, a bio, a location and a website. The typical (median) U.S. adult on Twitter fills out three of these five possible profile elements.