Twitter Elitists: Three-Quarters Of All US Political Tweets Come From Very Few

Conversations about national politics on Twitter often cascade across news media, but such discussion is overwhelmingly dominated by a minute percentage of U.S. adults on the platform, a new analysis finds.

A small but prolific pocket of Twitter users, just 6 percent of all U.S. adults with public accounts, account for 73 percent of tweets regarding American politics, the latest Pew Research Center study finds. The small share of tweeters stand in contrast to the median user who never tweets about politics. About 69 percent of U.S. adults on Twitter only tweeted about politics once or not at all.

This elite 6 percent of frequent political tweeters were found to share a series of civic-minded characteristics such as being political donors, campaign rally attendees and identify strictly as either a "liberal" or "conservative." An overwhelming majority of these politically active Twitter users, 92 percent, said they follow the news all of the time on a social media platform in which news is perpetually breaking.

A significant majority of these prolific political Twitter users are more likely to consider people with another ideology in a cold manner, the survey found. A majority of them were found to be further in their respective directions on each side of the spectrum. Fifty-five percent said they identify as either "very liberal" or "very conservative" based on an 11-point measure of political leanings.

A slim majority of these politically active Twitter users follow people with similar political belifes, while non-political Twitter talkers were only 17 percent likely to follow people based on similar politics.

A majority, 57 percent of this small group of political tweeters, said they have contacted an elected official in the year prior to the survey. While about one-third said they had attended a political rally or event.

This polarization trend follows parallels a September 2018 Pew study which found Republicans and Democrats are both increasingly viewing the other as extreme. About 35 percent of Democrats rated conservatives on the furthest point to the right, and 45 percent of Republicans said the same about their liberal or moderate counterparts.

In April, the Pew Research Center Fact Tank recorded that about 22 percent of the overall U.S. population has a Twitter account. This pales in comparison to the 73 percent of U.S. adults who use YouTube and 69 percent who said they have a Facebook account. The Silicon Valley giant's other platform, Instagram, is used by 37 percent of U.S. adults.

The Pew survey was conducted of about 2,500 U.S. adult Twitter users between November and December in 2018 and again in June of this year.

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A man poses for a photograph using Twitter on his cell phone on March 27, 2018. The company announced a new way for users to appeal reported tweets Tuesday. Diptendu Dutta/AFP/Getty Images