Numbers, Facts and Trends Shaping Your World

How U.S. adults on Twitter use the site in the Elon Musk era

Elon Musk's Twitter profile on April 25, 2022. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Elon Musk’s Twitter profile on April 25, 2022. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Just over a year ago – on April 14, 2022 – Elon Musk announced his intention to buy Twitter. With Musk now at the helm, here are four facts about how adult Twitter users in the United States are using the site.

How we did this

Pew Research Center conducted this analysis to better understand the on-site behaviors of U.S. adults on Twitter since Elon Musk acquired the platform. Data in this report is drawn from the American Trends Panel (ATP) Wave 119 conducted from Dec. 12 to Dec. 18, 2022. The sample is composed of panelists who indicated on the survey that they use Twitter and agreed to share a Twitter handle for research purposes. After the survey was fielded, researchers reviewed each account individually and removed any accounts that were suspended, invalid, or that belonged to institutions, products or international entities.

This final sample of 1,002 U.S. adult Twitter users with valid, active handles was weighted using an iterative technique that matches gender, age, race, years lived in the U.S., education, region, party identification, volunteerism, voter registration, metropolitan area, frequency of internet use and religious affiliation to American Trends Panel December 2022 (Wave 119) survey respondents who indicated in that survey that they use Twitter, using the Wave 119 weight as the base weight. The margin of error for the full sample is plus or minus 4.8 percentage points. For more details, read the Wave 119 methodology.

The findings in this report that examine users’ patterns of posting are based on tweets produced by respondents whose accounts were set to public during the period from Jan. 1, 2022, to April 10, 2023. All tweets posted by these public accounts during this timeframe were collected using the Twitter API, resulting in a total of 620,116 original tweets, replies, quote tweets and retweets from 639 users with public accounts who tweeted at least once during that time period. Center researchers also identified any tweets from these users that mentioned the name or Twitter handle of Elon Musk using case-insensitive regular expressions.

Two charts showing that mentions of Elon Musk have become more common among U.S. adult Twitter users since early 2022.

Musk himself has become a far more common subject of discussion on Twitter since acquiring the platform. On average, adult Twitter users in the U.S. mentioned Musk in a tweet just once between Jan. 1 and April 13, 2022, before he announced his intention to acquire the platform. Since then, however, references to Musk have become much more common on the site. These users tweeted about him an average of three times between April 14 and Oct. 26, 2022 – while Musk was in the process of acquiring the platform – and an average of six times in the months after the sale was finalized.

When looking at adult Twitter users individually, roughly four-in-ten have mentioned Musk in a tweet since early 2022. These mentions are especially common among Republicans and Republican-leaning independents who use the platform.

As was the case before Musk’s takeover, tweeting activity continues to be highly concentrated among a relatively small share of the site’s users. A minority of adult Twitter users in the U.S. continue to produce the bulk of the content. Since Musk’s acquisition, 20% of U.S. adults on the site have produced 98% of all tweets by this group.

As in the past, Democrats and Democratic leaners account for a majority – 61% – of these highly active tweeters.

The majority of highly active Twitter users continue to use the site following Musk’s takeover but are posting less frequently on average. Six-in-ten U.S. adults who have used Twitter in the past year say they have taken a break from the platform recently. And a quarter of these users say they are not likely to use Twitter a year from now, according to a recent Pew Research Center survey.

The Center’s new analysis of actual behavior on the site finds that the most active users before Musk’s acquisition – defined as the top 20% by tweet volume – have seen a noticeable posting decline in the months after. These users’ average number of tweets per month declined by around 25% following the acquisition.

Despite this, eight-in-ten of the most active adult Twitter users between Jan. 1 and April 14, 2022, have remained among the most active users in the months after Musk formally acquired the site in October 2022. The same general pattern holds when narrowing the focus to the most active 10% of Twitter users before and after the sale. Around three-quarters of these users have remained among at least the top 20% of tweeters since the acquisition.

Retweets are more common among Democratic Twitter users, while replies are more common among Republicans. Since Musk’s acquisition of Twitter, three-quarters of tweets from all U.S. adults on the site have been either retweets (35%) or replies to other users (40%). The rest are either original tweets (15%) or quote tweets (9%). But certain groups post an especially large share of certain types of tweets.

Multiple bar charts that show Democrats on Twitter post a larger share of retweets, Republicans post a larger share of replies.

Notably, there are partisan differences in the types of tweets users post. Retweets are the most common type of tweet from Democrats and Democratic leaners, accounting for half of all tweets from this group. By contrast, replies are the most common type of tweet by Republicans and Republican leaners, accounting for 61% of tweets from this group.

Note: For more details, read the Wave 119 methodology.