Policy

Is Twitter good for democracy? The answer may depend on your politics.

Twitter is a news powerhouse. But two new Pew surveys find Democrats and Republicans are divided on whether that's a good thing or not.

Twitter HQ

Democrats are more than twice as likely to say Twitter is good for democracy than Republicans.

Photo: Bloomberg

Twitter has become a powerhouse in the news ecosystem, but Democrats and Republicans are deeply divided on whether that's actually a good thing, according to two new Pew Research reports.

The reports, published Monday, surveyed 2,548 U.S. adults during May of this year to find out about the behaviors and attitudes of Americans on Twitter. One of the reports analyzed Twitter users' experience on the platform generally, while the other took stock of how people use Twitter for news.

Together, they found that Democrats are more than twice as likely to say Twitter is good for democracy than Republicans. They're also more likely to trust what they see. According to the survey, while 74% of Democrats expressed some level of trust in the news they see on Twitter, just 52% of Republicans said the same. The reports also lend some credibility to the idea that Twitter is not real life: People who turn to Twitter for news, the survey found, are largely liberal.

Twitter's relationship with conservatives grew increasingly strained during the Trump presidency, despite the fact that Trump's 2016 campaign credited Twitter and Facebook with his victory. But conservative fears about alleged censorship on the platform came to a head in summer 2020 when Twitter began labeling tweets about mail-in ballots from then-President Trump with fact checks. Trump responded by introducing a rushed executive order attacking Section 230 in retaliation. The company further angered the right when it automatically blocked a New York Post article about Hunter Biden months later. The final blow, however, was Twitter's decision to ban Trump for life following the Jan. 6 insurrection, a decision praised by the left and condemned by the right.

That split is reflected in the Pew surveys. The survey focusing specifically on news consumers found that not only are Democrats and Republicans divided, but that even among Democrats, the more liberal a user is, the more they trust news on Twitter. Some 83% of self-described liberal Democrats said they trust Twitter news, compared to 59% of those who call themselves moderate or conservative Democrats. But this same disparity isn't present among Republicans, whose trust levels overall are lower and don't vary by ideology.

It may stand to reason then that Twitter news consumers are also divided about the site's impact on society. More than half of Republicans who view news on the site think it's bad for democracy, compared to just 26% of Democrats. In fact, most Democrats feel exactly the opposite, with 54% saying Twitter is actually good for democracy. This could be influenced by the fact that more Democrats found Twitter helped their understanding of current events and made them feel politically engaged than Republicans did.

In general, the survey found news consumers on Twitter are more likely to be young, educated and liberal than other users. About 77% of them are under 50, 46% of them have a bachelor's degree or more and 42% are liberal.

Despite their divided views of news on Twitter, however, the majority of Democrats and Republicans surveyed — more than half of respondents from both parties — agreed that inaccurate or misleading information is still a major problem on Twitter. And more than 90% of Twitter users said they had seen at least some inaccurate or misleading information on the platform.

The survey also analyzed the actual Twitter accounts of a subset of its respondents and found that, as with lots of social media platforms, the most active users produce the bulk of the posts. According to the survey, just a quarter of users produced 97% of all tweets between June 12 and Sept. 12 this year. These users tended to lean toward more political content and were twice as likely as other users to say they've experienced harassment on the platform. And yet, those prolific tweeters are also markedly less likely than other users to see incivility on Twitter as a problem.

That may be, but Twitter itself has been hard at work trying to promote "healthy" conversations among its users. The survey presents an undesirable, if unsurprising, finding for the company: that Twitter's most devoted users are also the most likely to get dragged to its dark side.

Climate

Sealed finds a market in home decarbonization

Sealed offers homeowners the chance to save money and help protect the planet.

Sealed is convincing homeowners to look at their HVAC systems and insulation in order to save energy and money.

Photo: Gabe Souza/Portland Portland Press Herald via Getty Images

Shiny silver panels hug the walls of Andy Frank’s attic; they vaguely remind me of a child’s robot Halloween costume. A sticky-looking foam lines both the gaps in the attic’s floorboards and the roof, plugging up holes where squirrels could have once taken shelter.

The space is positively sweat-inducing, even for the mere minute I have my head poking above the trapdoor.

Keep Reading Show less
Lisa Martine Jenkins

Lisa Martine Jenkins is a senior reporter at Protocol covering climate. Lisa previously wrote for Morning Consult, Chemical Watch and the Associated Press. Lisa is currently based in Brooklyn, and is originally from the Bay Area. Find her on Twitter ( @l_m_j_) or reach out via email (ljenkins@protocol.com).

Now that most organizations are returning to the office, there are varying extremes – some leaders demand that employees return to the office, with some employees revolting and some rejoicing to be together again. On the other hand, some companies have closed physical offices and made remote work permanent; creating a sigh of relief for some employees and creating frustration for others.

Most of us are somewhere in between, trying our best to take a measured approach at building the right hybrid strategy tailored to company culture. Some seemingly have begun to crack the code, while the majority are grappling with the when, how, why, and who of this new hybrid work reality.

Keep Reading Show less
Nathan Coutinho

Nathan Coutinho leads Logitech's global conferencing business strategy and analyst relations. A Swiss company focused on innovation and quality, Logitech designs products and experiences that have an everyday place in people's lives.Coutinho leads strategy and execution of Logitech's video conferencing solutions, from personal solutions to highly-scalable conference rooms.Coutinho has more than 25 years of experience in the IT industry with various roles in executive leadership, consulting, engineering, marketing and technical sales.

Workplace

Experts say tech companies need to prepare for the next SCOTUS decision

HR experts said companies need to be proactive about protections for contraception, privacy and LGBTQ+ rights.

Experts say tech leaders need to start thinking about future Supreme Court rulings.

Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Tech companies are still trying to prepare for a post-Roe world. But it might already be time to think about what the Supreme Court is planning next.

When the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade Friday, Justice Clarence Thomas wrote in a concurring opinion that the court should also reconsider rulings protecting contraception and same-sex relationships, citing Griswold, Lawrence and Obergefell. If those decisions were ever overruled, it would have massive implications for everyone, but especially for employees living in states where same-sex marriage is at risk of becoming illegal without a federal shield.

Keep Reading Show less
Lizzy Lawrence

Lizzy Lawrence ( @LizzyLaw_) is a reporter at Protocol, covering tools and productivity in the workplace. She's a recent graduate of the University of Michigan, where she studied sociology and international studies. She served as editor in chief of The Michigan Daily, her school's independent newspaper. She's based in D.C., and can be reached at llawrence@protocol.com.

Policy

What’s next for tech in a post-Roe world

From employee support to privacy concerns, tech companies play a critical role in what’s to come for abortion access in the U.S.

States banning abortion means that tech will play a critical role in what’s to come for abortion access in the U.S.

Photo: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The end of Roe v. Wade has sent the world of tech scrambling. Many companies are now trying to quickly figure out how to protect workers in states where abortion will be banned, while also facing potential privacy and legal ramifications.


Here’s a look at tech companies’ roles and responses to the ruling. We will update this page as news and events change.

Keep Reading Show less
Alex Eichenstein

Alex Eichenstein (@alexeichenstein) is Protocol's social media editor. Previously, she managed social media and audience engagement efforts at the Center for Public Integrity. She earned an B.A. in English, women and gender studies and political science from the University of Delaware. She lives in Washington, D.C.

Fintech

You’re thinking about Apple Pay Later all wrong

Apple’s “buy now, pay later” product has a distinctly different distribution strategy that means it doesn’t directly threaten Affirm, Klarna and Afterpay.

Apple Pay Later emerges as a distinctly different product than what Klarna and Affirm offer.

Image: Apple; Protocol

Apple’s entry into the “buy now, pay later” market was one of its worst-kept secrets: Analysts had been predicting the company’s rollout of a pay-later service as early as 2020. The most common read on the move was predictable: Apple was here to smash the competition. The company has a track record of jumping into new sectors late and still managing to come out on top — the iPod came out when there were tons of MP3 players on the market.

But some analysts have a starkly different view. When you look at it under the hood, Apple Pay Later emerges as a distinctly different product than what Klarna and Affirm offer, they say — and one that isn’t much of a market predator.

Keep Reading Show less
Veronica Irwin

Veronica Irwin (@vronirwin) is a San Francisco-based reporter at Protocol covering fintech. Previously she was at the San Francisco Examiner, covering tech from a hyper-local angle. Before that, her byline was featured in SF Weekly, The Nation, Techworker, Ms. Magazine and The Frisc.

Latest Stories
Bulletins