How effective is Twitter as a political tool in the US? - survey

Political content makes up a large share of all content shared on Twitter by Americans, Pew Research Center found.

 A 3D-printed Twitter logo on non-3D printed Twitter logos is seen in this picture illustration taken April 28, 2022 (photo credit: REUTERS/DADO RUVIC)
A 3D-printed Twitter logo on non-3D printed Twitter logos is seen in this picture illustration taken April 28, 2022
(photo credit: REUTERS/DADO RUVIC)

A third of all tweets by the 23% of American adults who use Twitter are political in nature, a Pew Research Center survey published this week found.

In the poll, Americans on Twitter were found to be drawn to the political discourse on the social media platform. However, 99% of all the politically-natured tweets were found to have been shared by only 25% of adult American Twitter users.

Pew's report, based on a May 2021 survey on the subject and an analysis of English-language tweets shared in a 12-month period, also found that Americans are more likely to express a political opinion through quoting or retweeting another user's tweet.

44% of retweets and 42% of quote tweets sent by users analyzed in the study were related to politics, compared to 26% of all replies sent and only 8% of original tweets.

 The Twitter Inc. logo is shown with the US flag  (credit: LUCAS JACKSON/REUTERS) The Twitter Inc. logo is shown with the US flag (credit: LUCAS JACKSON/REUTERS)

An abundance of politics

But does political discussion suffocate other topics of interest discussed on Twitter?

According to Pew, users have largely said that political content makes up a large share of what they see and post on Twitter than in the past.

When asked what they see on Twitter the most, some 41% of respondents said most of the posts they see on Twitter are related to politics or political issues.

However, only 12% said that a lot of what they post themselves is politically-inspired.

 Elon Musk's Twitter profile is seen on a smartphone placed on printed Twitter logos in this picture illustration taken April 28, 2022 (credit: REUTERS/DADO RUVIC/ILLUSTRATION) Elon Musk's Twitter profile is seen on a smartphone placed on printed Twitter logos in this picture illustration taken April 28, 2022 (credit: REUTERS/DADO RUVIC/ILLUSTRATION)

Twitter, currently in the process of a  takeover by Tesla CEO and the world's wealthiest man, Elon Musk, has often been criticized by right-wing Americans and its prospective buyer himself for obstructing free speech, citing the permanent suspension of former US president Donald Trump's account, among others.

In a poll posted by Musk which asked whether Twitter rigorously adheres to free speech, 70% of the purportedly two million respondents said the answer is no.

Twitter and the American political experience

Pew asked some 2,500 American respondents how the Twitter experience differs for Democrats and Republicans. According to Pew, Democrats are more likely to tweet about political or social issues, with 30% compared to 17% of Republicans.

Democrats are also more likely to believe Twitter is an effective tool for raising public awareness of political issues. 28% of Democrats agreed with the notion compared to only 17% of Republicans.

Interestingly, Democrats are also much more likely to mostly follow other accounts which share their political beliefs and ideologies, with 40% of Democrats reporting that to be the case compared to only one-fifth of Republicans.

Twitter is a less frustrating experience if you are a Democrat, according to the poll, which found that a third of Democrat respondents say that they disagree with few or none of the tweets they encounter, compared to 16% of Republicans.