Some 21% of online adults used social networking sites such as Facebook or MySpace in the months leading up to the November, 2010 elections to connect to the campaign or the election itself, and 2% of online adults did so using Twitter. That works out to a total of 22% of adult internet users who engaged with the political campaign on Twitter or social networking sites in at least one of the following ways:
- 11% of online adults discovered on a social networking site who their friends voted for in the November elections
- 9% of online adults received candidate or campaign information on social networking sites or Twitter
- 8% of online adults posted political content on Twitter or a social networking site
- 7% of online adults friended a candidate or political group on a social networking site, or followed them on Twitter
- 7% of online adults started or joined a political group on a social networking site
- 1% of online adults used Twitter to follow the election results as they were happening
Republicans, who lagged behind Democrats in the 2008 campaign in some key aspects of social media use, caught up to Democrats in the midterm election cycle. The “political social media user” cohort represented by these 22% of internet users voted for Republican congressional candidates over Democratic candidates by a 45%-41% margin, and Republicans’ enthusiasm for using social media matched that of Democrats. Among social networking site users, 40% of Republican voters and 38% of Democratic voters used these sites to get involved politically. Further, Tea Party supporters were especially likely to friend a candidate or political group on a social networking site during the 2010 election—22% of such users did this, significantly higher than all other groups.
Compared with the rest of the online population (i.e. those who go online but did not use Twitter or social networking sites for political purposes in 2010) the “political social media” user group differs in some respects from other internet users:
Political social media users stand out for their overall use of technology. They are significantly more likely than other internet users to go online wirelessly from a cell phone or laptop (91% vs. 67%); own a laptop computer (79% vs. 63%); have a high-speed broadband connection (94% vs. 80%); and use the internet on their cell phone (61% vs. 40%).
Demographically, political social media users are younger and somewhat more educated than other internet users. Two in five (42%) are under the age of 30 (vs. 22% for the rest of the online population) and 41% have a college degree (34% of other internet users have graduated from college). However, they look quite similar to the rest of the online population in their racial, gender and income composition.