Twitter news junkies skew young, educated

Posted at 4:41 PM, Nov 04, 2013
and last updated 2013-11-04 18:41:39-05
By Chris Boyette


(CNN) — Nearly one in 10 U.S. adults get news from Twitter, and they tend to be younger, more educated and more mobile than news consumers overall, says a new report.

About half of the 16% of American adults who use Twitter say they rely on the service for news, according to a new report from the Pew Research Journalism Project. The report defines news defined as “information about events and issues that involve more than just your friends or family.”

The report comes as more and more people turn to social media as a source for news, and as Twitter prepares to begin trading shares this week as a public company. It was published Monday by the Pew Research Center in collaboration with the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

The report follows a similar study last month from Pew that found 30 percent of Americans get news on Facebook. Twitter news consumers skew younger and more educated than those who get their news from Facebook, and are more likely to consume news on a mobile device, according to the new report.

Monday’s report found that 40% of all U.S. adults get news “at least sometimes” on mobile devices, compared to 85% of Twitter news consumers and 64% of Facebook news consumers.

Information seekers on Twitter are relative youngsters. Forty-five percent of Twitter news consumers are 18-29 years old, while only 2% of Twitter news consumers are 65 or older. By contrast, 34% of Facebook news consumers are 18-29 years old and seven percent are 65 years or older.

Compare this to the 21% of the total U.S. population who are between 18 and 29, and the 18% who are 65 and up.

On Twitter, 40% of news consumers have at least a bachelor’s degree, compared to 30% of Facebook news consumers and 29% of Americans overall.

The Pew report includes analysis of Twitter conversations related to major news events, such as the acquittal of George Zimmerman, the Florida man accused in the shooting death of teen-ager Trayvon Martin. The analyses showed that breaking news, not opinion, made up the majority of Twitter news content. In the case of the Zimmerman verdict, the largest segment of the Twitter conversation — 39% of all sentiments expressed about the verdict — shared news without offering an opinion.

The study also found that conversations on Twitter can evolve quickly, and entiment about a news topic can shift. For example, in the two weeks after Supreme Court hearings on same-sex marriage in March, Twitter sentiment was against legalizing same-sex marriage by a wide margin of 55% to 32%. Yet a month later, opinions on Twitter favored same-sex marriage by 43% to 26%.

But the report noted that Twitter sentiment doesn’t always reflect the population at large.

The Pew report is based on a survey of more than 5,000 U.S. adults in late August and early September, along with an analysis of Twitter conversations surrounding major news events. Researchers analyzed Twitter posts for “information shared, sentiments expressed and ebb and flow of interest.”

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