Twitter users report taking part in a variety of political and civic activities, both on Twitter and elsewhere. Of the 14 civic and political behaviors measured on the survey, a majority of Twitter users report that they voted in an election in the preceding year (78%), or that they bought – or avoided buying – a product because of the company’s social or political values (60%). Smaller shares attended a campaign event or rally (13%) or worked or volunteered for a political campaign or party (12%) over the same time frame. This survey was fielded in May 2021, so the preceding year included both the 2020 presidential election and the first year of the coronavirus pandemic.
When it comes to Twitter-specific activities, just under half of U.S. adult Twitter users (45%) report that they have tweeted about social or political issues in the last year. And around a third of users have used the platform in the last year to post humorous content or memes that touch on political issues (37%) or to express support for a political campaign or candidate (35%).
All told, 61% of U.S. adults on Twitter took part in at least one of the seven different Twitter-specific political activities included in the survey. But just 3% say they engaged in one or more Twitter-specific actions but none of the other activities included in the survey; 58% say they engaged in actions both on Twitter and elsewhere. Meanwhile, 34% of users say they took part in civic or political activities somewhere other than Twitter, but not on the site itself.
Democrats on Twitter are more likely than Republicans to have recently tweeted about politics, pop culture, and hobbies – but not sports
When asked about the different types of content they might post about on the site, around one-quarter of U.S. adult Twitter users say they have tweeted or retweeted about political or social issues (26%); music, movies or pop culture (23%); or their hobbies (23%) in the past 30 days, with another 17% saying they have posted about sports during that same time frame. Half of these users say they have ever posted about pop culture or their hobbies, while 47% have ever posted about politics and 40% say they have ever posted about sports.
A significantly larger share of Democrats than Republicans say they have tweeted or retweeted about politics in the last 30 days (30% vs. 17%), with an especially large share of liberal Democrats (37%) saying they have done so. Democrats are also more likely than Republicans to say they have recently tweeted about pop culture or about their hobbies. But identical shares of Democrats and Republicans (17%) indicate they have tweeted about sports in the last 30 days.
Users say political content makes up a larger share of what they see than of what they post
Some 41% of Twitter users report that a lot of what they see on Twitter is related to political or social issues. Another 36% say that some of what they see on the site relates to politics, and just 6% say that none of their feed is political in nature.
It is less common for these users to report engaging with political content in other ways. For instance, fewer than half of users say that a lot (19%) or some (25%) of what they like or retweet is related to politics, and 32% say none of their likes or retweets are political.
And an even smaller share of users say politics makes up a sizable share of what they themselves post on Twitter. Of the 53% of users who say they have ever tweeted about political issues, 23% say that a lot of what they tweet about is related to politics. That works out to just 12% of all U.S. adult Twitter users who say that they post a lot of content that they would categorize as political.
Twitter users see the platform as more effective at raising awareness than at changing minds
As is true of public attitudes toward social media more broadly, Twitter users generally see the platform as an effective way to raise public awareness about political or social issues. Some 24% of Twitter users say the platform is a very effective way of doing this, and another 54% find it somewhat effective. Roughly one-third of liberal Democrats (32%) and 18- to-29-year-olds who use Twitter (33%) see the platform as very effective at raising public awareness about political and social issues.
Twitter users are somewhat less confident about whether the platform is effective at getting elected officials – as opposed to the public at large – to pay attention to issues. Around two-thirds of users think it is at least somewhat effective at this, but just 10% think it is very effective A larger share of Twitter users who are Black say the platform is very effective at raising awareness among public officials (20%) relative to White (8%) or Hispanic (10%) users.
And an even smaller share of users say Twitter is effective at encouraging other people to actually change their minds about political or social issues. Some 22% of users think it is very ineffective at this, roughly double the share who think it is very effective (9%). As with raising awareness among public officials, Black users see Twitter as a relatively effective way of changing minds. A majority of Black users (64%) find it at least somewhat effective in this regard, compared with 40% of White users and 46% of Hispanics.
U.S. adults on Twitter follow accounts and encounter posts that contain a mix of political beliefs
When asked how many of the tweets they see contain political views or opinions they disagree with, a majority of Twitter users (57%) say they disagree with some of them. Around one quarter (28%) say they disagree with very few or none of them, while the remaining 14% disagree with almost all or most of the political views they see on the site.
Republican Twitter users are around twice as likely as Democrats to say they disagree with all or most of the political views they see on the site (19% vs. 10%). Conversely, Democrats are roughly twice as likely as Republicans to say they disagree with few or none of the political tweets they encounter (33% vs. 16%).When asked a similar question about the political leanings of the accounts they follow, the largest share of U.S. adults on Twitter say they follow mostly accounts with a mix of political beliefs (39%) or whose political beliefs they aren’t sure of (21%). By contrast, among those users who say they follow at least some politicians or government figures, a majority (58%) indicate that these figures tend to have political views that are similar to their own.1
As was true of the tweets they encounter, Democrats who use Twitter are more likely than Republicans to say the accounts they follow – whether accounts in general, or political and government figures specifically – have similar political beliefs to their own.
Roughly one-third of U.S. adult Twitter users see news articles about political or social issues almost every time they use the site
Twitter users say they see a variety of different types of political content there. Most prominently, 31% say they see news articles about political or social issues almost every time they use the site. And about half that share says they encounter political memes (16%) or humorous videos that reference political or social issues (15%) with similar frequency. And a majority of users say they see each of these types of content at least sometimes.