Commentary

More Americans Turns to Social Media for News -- Sort Of?

Growing numbers of Americans are getting news from social media, but most of them don’t think social media is a valuable source of news, according to a new survey from the Pew Research Center, which surveyed 2,035 U.S. adults in March.

Pew, which delivered these results with a “go figure” shrug, found that the proportion of Twitter users who get news from the social site increased from 52% in 2013 to 63% in 2015, while the proportion among Facebook users rose from 47% to 63% over the same period. Within the 2015 figures, the share who said they use the social platforms to keep up with news as it was happening was 59% for Twitter and 31% for Facebook, reflecting the microblogging platform’s minute-by-minute structure.

It’s worth remembering that overall 17% of U.S. adults currently use Twitter, and 66% use Facebook, the actual numbers for Facebook will be considerably higher, even though the proportions are lower. Thus one in ten American adults gets news on Twitter, while 41% get news on Facebook. An overlapping group of 8% gets news from both sites.

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But as noted, social media users are also pretty skeptical about these platforms’ value as news sources. Among people who said they use the sites for news, 60% said they were “not a very important way I get news” for both Twitter and Facebook. Meanwhile 32% said Twitter was “an important way I get news,” and 36% said the same for Facebook; the latter figure is down slightly from 39% in 2013.

At the same time, younger users are more likely to say the sites are useful for news. Among news users ages 18-34, 49% said Facebook and Twitter are an important, or the most important, way they get news. That compares to just 31% and 34% for news users ages 35 and up.

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