(CN) – Twitter has become the platform of choice for reporters and news junkies since its creation in 2006, but a new study from the Pew Research Center reveals that a only a small fraction of users contribute to the vast majority of political commentary on the website.
According to a Pew analysis released Wednesday, a small minority of "prolific" political users (6%) account for nearly three in four (73%) tweets involving national politics. Additionally, political tweeters – which includes those who tweet about politics, but not as frequently – only account for 25% of all public Twitter users, for a total of 31% when combined with the 6% who make up the most prolific tweeters.
Twenty-six percent of users tweet frequently but avoid politics, and 43% do not tweet frequently. All Twitter users only account for 22% of U.S. adults, according to the study.
Researchers defined a "political" tweeter as someone who posted about politics at least twice during the year-long study, conducted among 2,427 adults between June 10, 2018 and June 9, 2019. Researchers defined a "prolific" political tweeter as someone who posted about politics at least five times during the study.
Prolific political tweeters were notably more engaged in national political conversations and actions, including rally attendance, contributions to campaigns and correspondence with elected officials. While 14% of political users said they had attended a political rally, 34% of prolific users said the same.
Only 6% of users who did not follow politics said they attended political events and 11% of infrequent tweeters said the same.
Prolific political users were also significantly more likely to follow the news, though majorities from each category said they follow news most of the time. Fifty-nine percent of infrequent tweeters, 53% of nonpolitical tweeters and 58% of nonprolific political tweeters all affirmed news knowledge, while 92% of prolific political tweeters said the same.
Prolific political users were also much more likely to state their political identities, follow those with similar beliefs and give "cold" ratings to the opposition party. Essentially, the data revealed that prolific political Twitter users were the most partisan of all.
For example, only 17% of nonpolitical tweeters said they followed others with similar political beliefs, but 51% of prolific political users said the same. Twenty-eight percent of nonpolitical tweeters said that they have stated their partisan affiliations on Twitter, compared to 55% of prolific political users.
In addition, 41% of nonpolitical users gave unfavorable ratings to the opposition party, but 64% of prolific political users said the same.
The study shows that a small number of highly politically active Twitter users posted the vast majority of political content on the platform, which also reflected significantly more political engagement. However, the ability of the vocal 6% of political power users to reach the broader public seems limited, given that less than one-quarter of Americans use Twitter.
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