When it comes to political activity online, Democrats are more likely than Republicans and Independents to say that social networking sites are important. And they’re also more likely to say that they’ve become more active politically because of their interactions on social media sites.
Those are some of the findings in Politics on Social Networking Sites, a new study from the Pew Internet and American Life Project.
Overall, 74 percent of those who call themselves liberal are using social networking sites, compared to 70 percent of moderates and only 60 percent of conservatives. And those social media-using Democrats are more likely than Republicans and Independents to say that social sites are important for things like debating political issues and recruiting others to get involved in political matters. Almost half of liberals surveyed said social media is important for keeping up with political news, compared to about a third of moderates and conservatives (see far left column below).
But what about the impact that social media has on political views? The Pew study shows that there’s not much at all.
Overall, only 16 percent of social media users say they’ve changed their views about a political issue because of their activity on social sites. In other words, all those photos and articles that you’re sharing on Facebook these days probably aren’t going to change your crazy friend’s point of view. Sorry.
In addition, only 25 percent of social media users say they’ve become more active in a political issue because of their social interactions. And those that do get more involved are, again, more likely to be Democrats/liberals.
On a similar note, nine percent of respondents said they became less involved in a political issue due to activity on social networking sites.
The big takeaway from the Pew survey appears to be that most social media users just aren’t all that active or interested in politics when they’re using these sites. A whopping 84 percent said there was little or no political content in their recent status updates, comments and links. (The breakdown on that group is 63 percent saying they’ve posted nothing political and 21 percent saying they’ve posted “just a little” about politics.)
Ultimately, it calls into question the big emphasis that both major U.S. political parties are placing on social media during the current election — an emphasis that’s sure to continue this week as the Democratic National Convention gets underway in Charlotte.
The Pew study is available online. More than 2,200 adults were interviewed between January 20-February 19, 2012.