The Half-Dirty Glass of Social Media: New Research on Twitter, Facebook, and the News

One thing liberals and conservatives agree upon

Tom Webster

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Photo Credit: The Social Habit, by Edison Research

Recently, Edison Research (my company) published the first data from our new syndicated tracking study of social media, The Social Habit. Entitled “Twitter Before and After Trump,” the report took a snapshot of social media usage immediately before January 9th, 2021 (the day after President Trump and approximately 70,000 other accounts were banned from Twitter) and immediately after, to see if there were any short-term changes in usage or behavior associated with Trump’s removal.

Among social media users ages 18+, the percentage who say they currently ever use Twitter went up over 20% in the two-week period after Jan 9th from the two weeks prior, and Twitter’s own data corroborates a story of post-Trump growth. The biggest driver of that shift? Social media users who report being politically liberal flocked back to daily use of the service, as you can see from the graph at the top of this article. Immediately prior to Trump’s ban, 37% of those identifying as politically liberal reported daily Twitter usage, which jumped to 46% immediately after what those liberal users might well have deemed Twitter’s “housecleaning.”

That jump from 37% to 46% is likely the first thing that caught your eye from that graph. But it’s not the big story of that graph. It should not escape you that the percentage of liberals who use Twitter daily was already more than double the percentage of conservatives who say the same. Banning President Trump and other account holders didn’t make Twitter “safe for liberals” to return to; it simply made a platform with a very liberal user base even more liberal. This, in a universe in which the average social media user actually leans towards conservativism, as does the United States in general. The latest tracking data from Gallup show that more than a third of Americans identify as conservative, while about a quarter say they are liberal. We saw nearly the exact same percentages among 2020 voters in Edison’s exit polling data. But this is not what Twitterland looks like.

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Tom Webster

Partner, Sounds Profitable. Leading voice in podcasting, digital audio, and greyhounds