‘Tis the season. Election season, that is. And what’s a simple and quick way for people to get politically involved?
If the first phrase that came to mind was social media—boom, you’re a winner. For the past 3 years, posting on social media has been the most popular way for people in the United States to express their political opinions.
In a poll we did with our partners at NBC, we surveyed more than 2,000 people across the country and found that sites like Twitter and Facebook—not town-hall meetings—have become the place where everyday people attempt influence public opinion.
In short, social media is changing the way we engage with our peers, voters, policymakers, and elected officials. We dug a little deeper into the data and compared it to respondent demographics to see who was responding and why.
Here are some key takeaways:
- Young people aren’t the only ones using social media for political expression. Respondents between the ages of 18 and 54 reported higher than the national average rate of political posts (average 34%).
- LGBTQ respondents had the highest rate of political posts on social media. Of that group, 58% reported using Facebook posts and tweets to talk about politics in the last 3 years. That trend coincides with a rise of LGBTQ issues, such as gay marriage, on the political landscape.
- Registered voters had a higher rate of posting online about politics (35%) than respondents who weren’t registered to vote (28%).
- Men reported tweeting their political views slightly more often than women. (Men: 36% and Women: 32%)
While posting on social media may come across as a convenient—or at worst, half-hearted—attempt at political expression, it’s affecting change in at least one way: Politicians have taken note of the trend and they’re talking back.
Sure, the White House changed its profile picture in celebration of the recent Supreme Court rulings on same-sex marriage, but posts like that are just the tip of the iceberg.
Sites like Facebook and Twitter are great for politicians to find out what their constituents really care about. But they’re also platforms to share their ideas and policies—sometimes in a surprisingly candid manner.
So when you’re searching for information about the next major political event, think beyond news sites. See if your congressman is making comments on Twitter or if the White House has a statement posted on Facebook—it might give you the extra color you need to form your own opinions about the matter.