March 28, 2023

Social Media Seen as Mostly Good for Democracy Across Many Nations, But U. S. is a Major Outlier – Pew Research Center

Most think social media has made it easier to manipulate and divide people, but also say it informs plus raises awareness

A photo of people using cellphones. (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

How we did this

This Pew Research Center analysis focuses on technology use and views of internet and interpersonal media in the context of democracy and society. The survey was conducted in 19 advanced economies within North America, Europe, the Middle East and the particular Asia-Pacific region.

For non-U. S. data, this report draws upon nationally representative surveys associated with 20, 944 adults from Feb. 14 to June 3, 2022. All surveys were conducted over the phone with adults in Canada, Belgium, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore plus South Korea. Surveys were conducted face to face in Hungary, Poland and Israel. In Australia, we used a probability-based online panel.

In the particular United States, we surveyed 3, 581 U. H. adults through March 21 to 27, 2022. Everyone who took part in this survey is the member of the Center’s American Trends Panel (ATP), an online survey panel that is recruited through national, random sampling of residential addresses. This way nearly all U. T. adults have a chance of selection. The study is weighted to be consultant of the U. S i9000. adult population by gender, race, ethnicity, partisan affiliation, education and other categories. Read more about the particular ATP’s methodology .

Technology use can be related to the way the survey is carried out. For example, our surveys in Malaysia, Singapore plus South Korea are designed to only call mobile phone numbers and interview people on mobile phones because the prevalence of cellular phone ownership is so high. For instance, a 2021 study by the Korea Information Society Development Institute found that 97% of all individuals in Korea, not just grown ups, own a mobile phone.

In addition, people who take our study on the cell phone may be more likely to use technology compared with those who take the survey in person. In 2019, we performed simultaneous telephone and in-person surveys within Italy. Both samples had been representative associated with the Italian population with respect in order to age, sex, education, and region. Respondents who required part in the phone survey had somewhat higher rates of internet make use of, smartphone ownership and social media use. We moved from in-person interviews to telephone interviews within Italy in 2020 plus Greece within 2021, and do not make direct comparisons to technology use prior in order to the mode change.

With regard to purposes associated with comparison, information from Australia is not included in analyses of web use or phone possession. Internet make use of, smartphone and mobile telephone ownership, plus social networking use data in the U. S. comes from a phone survey executed Jan. 25 to Feb. 8, 2021.

Here are the questions used for the statement, along with responses, and the survey methodology .

As people across the particular globe possess increasingly turned to Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp along with other platforms to get their news and express their opinions, the sphere of social media marketing has become a new public space for discussing – and often arguing bitterly – about political plus social issues. And within the mind of many analysts, social media is one of the major reasons for the declining health of democracy in nations around the world.

Bar chart showing most say that social media has been good for democracy but has had important negative and positive effects on politics and society

However , because a brand new Pew Study Center study of 19 advanced economies shows, ordinary citizens see social media as both a constructive and destructive component of political life, and overall most believe this has actually had the positive impact on democracy. Across the particular countries polled, a median of 57% say social media has been more associated with a good thing with regard to their democracy, with 35% saying it is has been a bad thing.

There are substantial cross-national differences on this question, however , and the United States is a clear outlier: Just 34% of Oughout. S. adults think interpersonal media continues to be good regarding democracy, while 64% say it has experienced a poor impact. In fact , the U. S. is an outlier on a number of measures, with larger shares of Americans seeing social media since divisive.

Dot plot showing more Americans see negative political impact of the internet and social media, compared with other countries surveyed

Even in countries where assessments associated with social media’s impact are usually largely positive, most believe they have got some pernicious effects – in particular, it has led to manipulation plus division within societies. A median of 84% across the 19 countries surveyed think access to the internet and interpersonal media have made people simpler to manipulate along with false information and rumors. A recent analysis of the same survey shows that a typical of 70% throughout the nineteen nations consider the spread of false information online to be a major threat, second only in order to climate change on a list of global threats.

Additionally , a median of 65% think it offers made individuals more divided in their political views. More than four-in-ten say this has made people less civil within how they talk about politics (only regarding a quarter say it has made people more civil).

So given the on the internet world’s manipulation, divisiveness and lack of civility, what’s to like? Exactly how can this acrimonious sea of fake information be good for democracy? Part associated with the answer may become that it gives people the sense of empowerment at a time when few feel empowered. Majorities in nearly every country surveyed state their politics system does not allow people like them in order to have an influence in national politics. In nine nations, including the Oughout. S., seven-in-ten or a lot more express that will view.

Online platforms may help individuals feel much less powerless in a few ways. First, social press informs them. As a recent Pew Analysis Center record highlighted, majorities in these nations believe that staying informed about domestic plus international events is part of being a good citizen, and it is clear that people believe the particular internet and social mass media make it easier to stay informed. Nearly three-quarters say the web and social media make people more informed regarding current events in their own nation as well as within other countries. Young adults are especially likely to hold these sights.  

Bar chart showing social media generally seen as effective at influencing politics and policy

Also, the majority of all those surveyed observe social media as an effective tool intended for accomplishing political goals. Majorities in most nations say this is at least somewhat effective at raising public awareness, changing people’s minds about problems, getting elected officials to pay attention to issues plus influencing policy decisions.

Regarding some, social media is also an outlet to get expression. In South Korea, for instance, roughly half of social media users state they sometimes or often post or even share things online about political or social issues. However, within the other countries polled, posting about these issues is less common, and in 12 nations four-in-ten or more say they never post regarding political or even social topics. These are among the main findings of a Pew Research Center study, conducted through Feb. fourteen to 06 3, 2022, among 24, 525 grown ups in 19 nations.    

People in america most likely to say interpersonal media has been bad pertaining to democracy

Bar chart showing social media generally seen as good thing for democracy – but not in U.S.

Majorities in most from the nations selected believe social networking has already been a good thing meant for democracy within their country. Assessments are especially positive in Singapore, Malaysia, Poland, Sweden, Hungary and Israel, exactly where 65% or even more hold this particular view (for data on how international research organizations assess the quality associated with democracy in the countries surveyed, see Appendix A ).

In contrast, Americans are the most negative about the impact of social media marketing upon democracy: 64% say it has been bad. Republicans and independents who lean toward the particular Republican Party (74%) are much more likely than Democrats and Democratic leaners (57%) to notice the ill effects of social media on the political system.

Half or more furthermore say social networking has already been bad for democracy within the Netherlands, France plus Australia.

Within addition in order to being the most negative about social media’s influence on democracy, Americans are consistently among the particular most unfavorable in their particular assessments associated with specific ways social media marketing has affected politics and society. For example , 79% in the U. S. believe access to the internet and social media offers made individuals more separated in their political opinions, the highest percentage among the nineteen countries polled.

Similarly, 69% of Us citizens say the internet plus social press have made people less civil in how they discuss politics – again the greatest share one of the nations within the study.

Bar chart showing Americans see more negative effects of internet and social media on society

To compare how publics evaluate the effect of the internet and social media upon society, we created a good index that combines responses to six questions regarding whether the particular internet makes people: 1) less informed about current events within their nation, 2) a lot more divided in their political views, 3) less accepting of people from different backgrounds, 4) easier to manipulate with false info and gossips, 5) much less informed regarding current occasions in other countries, and 6) less civil in the method they talk about national politics.

The bad positions on all of these questions were coded as 1 while good or “no impact” responses were coded as 0. For each respondent, scores on the overall index may range from 0, indicating they discover no negative effects of the internet plus social networking across these queries, to 6, meaning a negative answer to all 6 questions. See Appendix B for more information about how the index was created.

Looking at the particular data this way illustrates the degree to which Americans stand out for their negative take on social media’s impact. The average score amongst U. Ersus. respondents is 3. 05, the highest – and therefore the most damaging – within the survey. Dutch, Hungarian and Australian respondents are also more adverse than others. In contrast, Malaysians, Israelis, Poles plus Singaporeans offer less harmful assessments.  

Pew Research Center’s research upon the web, social media marketing and technology in the Oughout. S. and around the world

Many of the topics explored in this report have got been studied in depth in the U. S. by Pew Study Center’s internet and technologies team , which designed for more than two decades has conducted survey study around the interpersonal impact associated with digital technologies, such as  web and broadband ,   mobile connectivity   and  social media . The team’s work provides included subjects such as  privacy and surveillance ,   activism and civic engagement ,   digital divides ,   the particular role of technology within people’s lives and broader society ,   teens’ plus younger children’s use associated with technology and  on-line dating . In inclusion, this analysis has examined the emergence of facial recognition, smart speakers, the gig/sharing economy, people’s attitudes about automation and algorithms and the particular use of wearable technology. The particular research has also regularly discovered the future of digital life on such problems as the future of work and the rise of artificial intelligence.

The Center has also continually analyzed technology usage and views about the influence of electronic technologies around the world as part of its Global Attitudes research, which includes reports upon topics such as social media usage , smartphone ownership and general public opinion in Africa regarding the impact from the internet on society.  

In 2018, the Middle conducted an in-depth study in 11 emerging financial systems, examining sights about cellular technology plus social networking , and also behaviour toward diversity during these countries. The middle furthermore conducted focus groups within five nations included in this particular study. In many methods, the results associated with the 2018 study were similar in order to those in the present survey, within that individuals in emerging and sophisticated economies alike believe social media marketing presents each opportunities and dangers. For a comparison of results through the two studies, see “ Within advanced plus emerging economies, similar views about how interpersonal media affects democracy and society . ”

For the past few years, the COVID-19 pandemic has created challenges for conducting surveys in nations where the Center typically interviews respondents in person, rather than via phone or even online approaches. Moving forward, all of us will return to in-person interviewing in countries around the particular world, which will allow us to explore the impact of technology as well as other issues in regions that are underrepresented or not represented in this review.

The rapid growth of social media

Bar chart showing large increase in social media use in Japan, France, Poland, the U.S., Spain, the UK and Germany compared with a decade ago
Line charts showing social media use in Japan, France, Poland, the U.S., Spain, the UK, and Germany has grown sharply among older adults in the last decade

Pew Research Center has been asking about social media utilization for the past decade, and trend data from several nations polled over that time period highlights the extent to which these platforms have become pervasive in recent years. Growth continues to be especially dramatic in Japan, where just 30% utilized social mass media in 2012, compared with 75% today. Social media has also increased markedly in Italy, Poland, The country of spain, the Oughout. S. plus the United Kingdom. Even within Germany, which usually lags significantly behind these types of other countries in interpersonal media use, there offers been the notable increase since 2012.  

In every nation selected, young people are more probably than other people to use social media. Nevertheless , the age gap provides closed more than the past decade. When looking again at data from seven nations polled in both 2012 and 2022, development in usage has been specifically steep among 30- in order to 49-year-olds plus those ages 50 and older. For instance , nearly almost all British 18- to 29-year-olds were already social networking users this year, but there has been significant growth amongst the two older age groups during the particular past 10 years.

Young people more likely to find benefits of interpersonal media

Overall, young adults are more most likely than older adults to use the internet, own a smartphone plus use social media marketing. For a lot more information upon age differences in technology make use of, as well as differences by education and income, see the detailed tables accompanying this report.

Dot plot showing young adults see social media’s impact on democracy more positively than older adults in most countries

In addition to using social media more than their own older counterparts, young adults often remain out within their views concerning the impact associated with social media.

Adults age groups 18 in order to 29 are usually more likely than individuals 50 and older to say social networking has already been good for democracy in twelve out of 19 nations surveyed. For instance, whilst 87% of 18- in order to 29-year-old Poles believe social media has had a positive effect on politics, just 46% of those 50 and old agree.

Young adults will also be often more prone to say the web and social media marketing has produced people a lot more informed regarding domestic plus international activities, and they are especially prone to state these systems make individuals more accepting of others through different backgrounds.

In many cases, young people may also be especially more likely to consider social media an effective tool in the politics realm, particularly regarding the capacity to change people’s thoughts on interpersonal issues and to raise awareness of those problems.

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