By Chloe Aiello
If you're looking for a quick way to catch a pulse of public sentiment on an issue, Twitter might not be the best forum to turn to. Twitter users skew younger, wealthier, better educated, and more liberal than the American public at large, according to new research from the Pew Research Center.
"If you were to use tweets to kind of understand what Americans think about X, Y, or Z, you should be very sort of attuned to the fact that you are hearing particular voices and those voices are not representative of everyone," said Adam Hughes, a computational social scientist at the Pew Research Center.
The Pew Research Center surveyed more than 2,700 U.S. adult Twitter users to compile its report. It found that only 22 percent of U.S. adults actually use Twitter. Of those, most are white, more educated, and wealthier than the general public, and about 60 percent identify as or lean Democrat. Hughes also emphasized that the top 10 percent of tweeters, mostly politically opinionated women, account for about 80 percent of total tweets.
"The conversations that happen on social media not only don't reflect the U.S. population, but it's a small number of people that actually do all the tweeting," Hughes said.
Twitter ($TWTR) has taken center stage in recent years as the platform of choice for communications from such high profile figures as President Donald Trump and Tesla ($TSLA) CEO Elon Musk. In fact, Trump uses the platform so often to tweet in an official capacity, even from his personal account @therealDonaldTrump, that a federal judge in New York ruled in 2018 that it was unconstitutional for Trump to block people on the platform. The Department of Justice has challenged the ruling.
Despite Trump's near constant use of the platform, he routinely accuses it of everything from anti-conservative bias to censorship. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey has repeatedly denied the allegations, and even met with the president on Tuesday for what Twitter called a "constructive" meeting, CNN reported.
Suffice to say Twitter has taken on a whole new significance in the Trump era, which partially informed Pew's decision to study it.