Twitter and Facebook are not Representative of the General Population: Political Attitudes and Demographics of British Social Media users

Jonathan Mellon, Christopher Prosser

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Abstract

A growing social science literature has used Twitter and Facebook to study political and social phenomena including for election forecasting and tracking political conversations. This research note uses a nationally representative probability sample of the British population to examine how Twitter and Facebook users differ from the general population in terms of demographics, political attitudes and political behaviour. We find that Twitter and Facebook users differ substantially from the general population on many politically relevant dimensions including vote choice, turnout, age, gender, and education. On average social media users are younger and better educated than non-users, and they are more liberal and pay more attention to politics. Despite paying more attention to politics, social media users are less likely to vote than non-users, but they are more likely to the left leaning Labour party when they do vote. However, we show that these apparent differences arise due to the demographic composition of social media users. After controlling for age, gender, and education, no statistically significant differences arise between social media users and non-users on political attention, values, or political behaviour.
Original languageEnglish
JournalResearch & Politics
Early online date13 Jul 2017
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2017

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Cathie Marsh Institute

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