While it can be tempting to view conversations on Twitter as a cross-section of public opinion, a new Pew Research Center study finds the demographics of active users diverge from those of the general U.S. population. The study found that 10% of Twitter users generate the bulk of tweets on the platform — and of that subset, 69% identify as Democrats.
Conservatives continue to complain that Silicon Valley companies and social media platforms exhibit overt bias against them. While the Pew study doesn’t refute or support that idea, it does indicate that Democrats are more likely to be prolific Twitter users.
For the study, Pew conducted a series of surveys in which Twitter users were asked to share their handles so they could be validated as real people. Pew ultimately focused on 3,518 individual accounts in the U.S.
The first finding is not entirely surprising: Power users dominate the platform. According to Pew, 10% of users produce 92% of all U.S. tweets. Pew found that the median U.S. adult Twitter user posted just one tweet per month. For Democrats, that average is one tweet per month, while for Republicans it’s closer to zero.
Pew then took a deeper look into the political makeup of those power users.
The study found that 69% of what are described as “highly active users” identified themselves as Democrats or Democratic-leaning independents. Within that most active subset, researchers noted that the 10% most active Democrats tweeted 157 times per month compared to 79 times for the 10% most active Republicans.
“Most U.S. adults on Twitter post only rarely,” the study says. “But a small share of highly active users, most of whom are Democrats, produce the vast majority of tweets.”
Within the categories of Democrats and Republicans, another important difference emerged: Democrats on Twitter tend to lean a bit further to the left than non-Twitter Democrats. According to Pew, 60% of Democrats on Twitter described themselves as “liberal” compared to just 43% of Democrats who do not use Twitter.
In contrast, Republican Twitter users seem to be more in line with general conservative sentiment. The study said 60% of Republican Twitter users and 62% of Republicans who don’t use Twitter considered themselves to be “very or somewhat conservative.”