Tweets have become a routine part of the national conversation in the U.S. They are discussed on shows ranging from network newscasts to late-night comedy. Sometimes a big event is announced on Twitter before it is mentioned anywhere else. Tweets can even ignite or fuel social movements; #MeToo is an example.
What do we know about this platform, where so much is happening, and about the people who use it? The Pew Research Center looked into those questions and found some interesting answers. The Twitter users they studied were adults in the U.S. Here are 12 key findings.
Most People Don’t Use Twitter and Most Tweets Are Composed By a Small Group of Users
1. If you don’t use Twitter, you are in the majority — the vast majority. Only 22% of adults in the U.S. report that they use Twitter.
2. Most adult Twitter users are not active tweeters. The median Twitter user tweets only about twice a month. A small percentage of top tweeters dominate the platform: the top 10% of adult Twitter users in the U.S. tweet 138 times a month. They produce 80% of all tweets from that group and are more likely to be women.
Twitter is Personal — Its Users Are Not the Same as Everyone Else
3. Twitter users are more highly educated. Only 31% of all American adults have at least a college degree. Among Twitter users, 42% do.
4. People on Twitter have more money. On the average, only 32% of American adults make at least $75,000 a year. Among Twitter users, 41% earn at least that much.
5. Twitter has a reputation as a public forum and often it is, but 13% of users keep their accounts private.
6. People on Twitter are younger. In the U.S., the number of adults who are 50 or older is about the same as the number between 18 and 49. On Twitter, only 27% are 50 and older, compared to 73% of adults who are younger than 50.
7. Just as many Twitter users are female as male (50-50). In the population as a whole, there are slightly more adult women (52-48).
8. Non-Hispanic white and black adults, as well as Hispanics, are represented on Twitter in numbers comparable to the general population. For blacks, the numbers are identical: 11% on Twitter and in the U.S. adult population. Whites are a bit under-represented (60% of Twitter users, compared to 64% in the general population) and Hispanics are slightly over-represented (17% on Twitter, compared to 15% in the general population).
Twitter Is Political
9. If you are on Twitter, does it seem to you that Democrats dominate there? Sometimes perceptions like that are misperceptions, driven by our expectations and biases. Not so this time. Just over half of the adults in the U.S. say they are Democrats or lean that way (52%), but on Twitter, 60% are Democrats or Democrat-leaning. Similarly, in the Pew survey of the nation’s leanings, 43% said they were Republican or lean that way, but on Twitter, only 35% described themselves that way.
10. More Twitter users follow Democratic political leaders than Republican ones. For example, 17% of Twitter users follow at least one Democratic member of Congress, whereas only 8% of Twitter users follow at least one Republican member of Congress. Also, 26% of U.S. adults on Twitter follow Barack Obama, compared to 19% who follow Donald Trump.
Real Twitter Users Look for News, But Often They Get Bots
11. About seven out of 10 Twitter users (71%) get news from the site.
12. In an analysis of all tweets (not just the ones from adults in the U.S.), the Pew researchers found that about two-thirds of the links to popular websites, 66%, came from bots (programs that perform automated tasks).