Quarter of adult US Twitter users responsible for 99 percent of political tweets: study

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A quarter of the adult Twitter users in the United States are responsible for 99 percent of political tweets, according to a Pew Research Center study released Thursday

The finding is in line with previous Pew surveys that found a minority of users post an overwhelming majority of tweets, both political and in general. The report is based on a survey of U.S. adults on Twitter and an analysis of English-language tweets a portion of those users posted between May 2020 and May 2021. 

Americans ages 50 and older make up a quarter of all U.S. adult Twitter users but post 78 percent of all political tweets, the study found. It also found that older adults are much more likely to tweet about politics than younger adults. 

A third of all tweets from U.S. adults are political, the analysis found. 

Two-thirds of those who tweet about politics the most said they use the platform to share their opinions compared to 34 percent of other users. The report said 53 percent of those with more political posts discuss politics at least once weekly with others, compared to 33 percent of others, and 46 percent of the first group contributed to a political campaign in the past year, compared to only 21 percent of others. 

But those who tweet the most about politics are less likely to say Twitter is at least somewhat effective at changing people’s minds on political or social issues. Only 34 percent of respondents said they believe this, compared to 50 percent of users who tweet less about politics. 

The study also found a disparity between the amount of political posts that users see on Twitter and the amount that they post. More than 40 percent said “a lot” of what they see on the site is political or about political issues, but only 12 percent said a lot of their posts are on these topics. 

More than 40 percent of retweets and quote tweets in the analysis were found to involve politics, but only 26 percent of replies and 8 percent of original tweets did. 

The researchers also found that “Twitter-only” political engagement is relatively rare. The vast majority of respondents said they engaged in political activity outside of posting on Twitter, such as voting, signing a petition or buying from or avoiding a company because of its political or social values. 

Only 3 percent of respondents said they just post on Twitter and do not engage in other political activities, while 58 percent said they engage in political or civic activities on Twitter and in other spheres. 

Pew conducted the survey of 2,548 U.S. adult Twitter users from May 17 to 31, 2021. The margin of error was 3.4 percentage points. 

The analysis was based on respondents who agreed to share their handles who had their accounts set to publicly available.

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