Analysis: Why everyone should pay less attention to political Twitter
(CNN)To have heard about the run-up to the 2021 election on political Twitter, you would have thought that Democrats were cruising to wins across the country — fueled by Republican opposition to President Joe Biden’s agenda and their slavish adherence to former President Donald Trump.
That’s not what happened. Instead, Republicans won all three statewide offices in Virginia and nearly knocked off the Democratic incumbent governor in New Jersey.
Then comes a deep dive by the Pew Research Center into Twitter and why the platform simply is not reflective of the broader views of the American electorate.
Start here: Only 1 in 4 Americans use Twitter, Pew found.
To put that in perspective, that’s roughly the number of people who think the sun rotates around the Earth. Or the number of Americans who say they have watched “Squid Game” on Netflix.
That’s not to say no one uses Twitter — by a long shot. But neither is it anywhere close to a majority of the country.
Then there’s this: The most active 25% of Twitter users produce 97% of the tweets on the site.
And this: That most active group is publishing very little original content on Twitter. In fact, just 14% of their tweets are original posts. Retweets (49%) and replies (33%) make up the bulk of their “contribution” on the site.
Take those three data points together and you get this: A tiny swath of an already small group is producing the bulk of content on Twitter every day.
Yet Pew’s researchers found “for a majority of users, Twitter serves mostly as a way to see what others are saying rather than primarily serving as a means of expression.” That makes the vast majority of the content they are putting out, via retweets and replies, an echo chamber as opposed to original thoughts.
Is it any wonder that Twitter isn’t a useful approximation of what is really going on in politics or the world?
The Point: Read the Pew study. Bookmark it. And remember a whole world exists out there that thinks nothing like the world of Twitter.