Analysis of U.S. adults' behavior on Twitter

A Pew Research Center analysis of English-language tweets posted by adult U.S. Twitter users between May 1, 2020, and May 31, 2021, found that one-third (33%) of those tweets were political in nature.

Americans age 50 and older make up 24 percent of the adult U.S. Twitter population but generate nearly 80 percent of political tweets. 36 percent of tweets posted by the typical (median) adult U.S. Twitter user age 50 or older contain political content, roughly five times the share of tweets posted by the typical tweeter age 18 to 49 (7 percent).

Politicians account for 20 percent of accounts, with a large number of U.S. adults following closely behind. Politicians, government figures, public officials and office holders account for only 1 percent of all accounts followed by a representative sample of adult U.S. Twitter users. But these entities are more prevalent among the most followed accounts: 20% of accounts followed by at least 20 respondents fall into this category. Media organizations and journalists, as well as policy or advocacy organizations, were also more prevalent among accounts widely followed by U.S. adults on Twitter.

There is relatively little "Twitter-only" political engagement. The Center's survey asked users about a variety of political actions they might take, both on Twitter (such as posting tweets about political or social issues) and offline (such as voting or contributing to campaigns). The vast majority of Twitter users had engaged in at least one of these activities in the previous year. By far the largest share (58%) engaged in both Twitter and elsewhere, with another 34% engaging in non-Twitter activities only. Only 3% of adult U.S. Twitter users say they took some kind of political or civic action on Twitter in the past year, but did not do so outside of the platform.

Users say political content accounts for a larger share of what they see than what they post. About 41% of adult U.S. Twitter users say that much of the content they see on Twitter is related to political or social issues. But only 12 percent said much of the content they post themselves is related to these topics.