Politics

News on Twitter: Consumed by Most Users and Trusted by Many

The logo of the Twitter app on the screen of a smartphone.
(Fabian Sommer/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images)

Pew Research Center conducted this study to gain insight into Twitter users’ views, attitudes and behaviors on the site, and how those opinions might vary based on their news habits on the site. For this analysis, we surveyed 2,548 U.S. adult Twitter users in May 2021.

Everyone who took part in this 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. Read more about the ATP’s 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.

About seven-in-ten Twitter users get news on the site …

News plays a prominent role on Twitter. Overall, 23% of Americans use Twitter, and roughly seven-in-ten U.S. Twitter users (69%) say they get news on the site, according to a new Pew Research Center study that surveyed 2,548 Twitter users from May 17 to 31, 2021.

For most of these Twitter news consumers, the site is an important way they keep up with the news – but not the most important way. Just 8% of Twitter users who get news on the site say it is the most important way they get news, while an additional 59% say it is important but not paramount.

One key area of news people rely on Twitter for is breaking news. Fully 70% of Twitter news consumers say they have used Twitter to follow live news events, up from 59% who said this in 2015.

Twitter news consumers have generally positive opinions of the accuracy and amount of news they see on the site. Although only 7% of Twitter news consumers say they have “a great deal” of trust in the accuracy of information on Twitter, two-thirds say they have at least some trust in it. This is far higher than the share of Americans (27%) who say they have at least some trust in the information they find on social media in general. In addition, two-thirds of Twitter users who get news there say they like the amount of news they see on the site, versus 32% who say they are worn out by the amount of news there.

As with so many other attitudes toward the media, however, significant partisan splits exist. Twitter news consumers who identify with or lean toward the Democratic Party express higher levels of trust in the news they find on the site than do those who identify with or lean toward the GOP: While 74% of these Democrats have at least some trust in the accuracy of news and information they find on Twitter, fewer Republicans (52%) say the same. Republican Twitter news consumers also express less satisfaction than their Democratic counterparts with the amount of news they see there. More of these Republicans (46%) say they are worn out by the amount of news they see on Twitter than Democrats (25%).

Among those who get news on Twitter, there is also a gap between the parties in perceptions of Twitter’s impact on society. Most Republicans who consume news on Twitter (63%) say the site is mostly bad for American democracy, while 26% of Democrats share this view. Democratic Twitter news consumers are more likely to say Twitter is mostly a good thing for democracy (54%).

Twitter news consumers are more likely to say the site has impacted their lives in a variety of ways

On the whole, Twitter news consumers are more likely than other Twitter users (and Americans overall) to be Democrats, as well as to have college degrees and be relatively young. Twitter news consumers also are more engaged with the site in general – 46% say they visit Twitter every day.

This appears to come with both benefits and drawbacks. Just over half of Americans who get news on Twitter (57%) say using Twitter has increased their understanding of current events, compared with 23% of other Twitter users. Twitter news consumers also are more likely than other Twitter users to say that using the site has increased how politically engaged they feel (37% vs. 15%, respectively). However, some also report that it has increased their stress levels: 31% of Twitter news consumers say this, along with just 14% of other Twitter users.

The rest of this report looks at these and other findings in more detail. An accompanying Pew Research Center report examines Twitter behavior more broadly by pairing survey findings with user data.

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