Democrats More Influenced By Social Media
Social media has a bigger impact on the political views of Democratic voters than Republicans, according to a poll of 1,407 U.S. adults conducted by the Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project in January and February of this year -- although social media’s impact on both groups is “modest,” according to Pew project director Lee Rainie.
Rainie noted that, “For most of those who use the sites, political material is just a small portion of what they post and what they read.” Overall, just 36% of people who use social network sites believe they are “very important” or “somewhat important” in keeping them abreast of the latest political news. Meanwhile 26% of users said sites are important for recruiting people to political causes that matter to them, 25% said they help find other people with the same political views, and the same proportion said they are important for debating political issues. Conversely, 84% of all users said they have posted nothing political recently, and 59% said the same of their friends.
When politics does come up, unsurprisingly it is often a contentious topic. 38% of all social network users said they had discovered that their friends hold different political views through social networks, while 18% have blocked or unfriended someone because they posted too much about politics or disagreed about politics online. On the flip side, 16% of social network users have friended someone because of their political views.
By party affiliation, Democrats were more likely to use social networks for political purposes across the board, Pew found. For example, 48% of Democrats said they use social networks to keep up with political news, compared to 34% of Republicans and 33% of independents; 35% of Democrats said social networks were an important way of recruiting other people for political causes they care about, compared to 25% of Republicans and 22% of independents; 34% of Democrats said they use social networks to find others with similar views, compared to 23% of Republicans and 22% of independents; and 32% of Democrats said they use social networks to discuss political issues, compared to 24% of Republicans and 23% of independents.
In terms of motivation, 24% of Republicans, conservatives, and independents said social networks have prompted them to become more politically involved, compared to 33% of Democrats and 39% of self-described liberals.
These results may simply reflect the fact that left-leaning people are more likely to use social network sites than conservatives. According to the Pew study, 74% of liberal Internet users also use social network sites, compared to 70% of political moderates on the Internet and 60% of conservatives on the Internet.