Pew: Social media as a political tool on the rise

If your Facebook or Twitter accounts are full of opinion over the presidential campaign, you're not the only one.

Charlie Osborne Contributing Writer
Charlie Osborne is a cybersecurity journalist and photographer who writes for ZDNet and CNET from London. PGP Key: AF40821B.
Charlie Osborne
2 min read

Check out your Facebook news feed and see opinion, links to news articles, and dialogue all concerning the presidential election and campaign. Twitter? There's more than enough there to to keep you occupied.

And it seems like it may be a phenomenon that is here to stay.

A recent research report from the Pew Internet & American Life Project says that "the use of social media is becoming a feature of political and civic engagement for many Americans." Sixty percent 2,253 U.S. adults surveyed use social-networking sites including Facebook and Twitter, and of these users, 66 percent have conducted either civil or political activity through this communication channel.

All in all, it appears that users with the strongest party or ideological ties are more likely to use social media for a political or social purpose -- Republicans and Democrats often using the global networks to share political content, "like" something, or try and raise awareness or share their opinion online.

Younger users are more likely to share their political views, belong to an online political group, encourage others to take action and post political or social material than social media users aged 50 or above.


Some of the report's findings include:

  • 38 percent on social-networking sites use it to "like" or promote material related to politics or social issues. 52 percent of Democrats have done so, and 42 percent of Republicans agreed.
  • 35 percent use online tools to try and encourage others to vote;
  • 34 percent post their own thoughts or comment on politics online. Democrats who use social media (42 percent) and Republicans (41 percent) are most likely to reveal their political opinions.
  • 33 percent re-post political content, and 31 percent use social networking to "take action on a political or social issue that is important to them." Separating each political party, 36 percent of Democrats, 34 percent of Republicans and 29 percent of independents have re-posted articles or links in the past.

In addition, 28 percent of social media uses post stories and links for others to read; liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans most likely to do so -- coming in at 39 and 34 percent respectively. 21 percent said they belong to a group on social networks that are involved in political or social issues, and 20 percent stated they follow officials and candidates online.

The survey was conducted between July 16 and August 7. Roughly half of respondents used social-networking sites including Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+ or Twitter.