The FINANCIAL — About two-thirds of American adults (68%) say they at least occasionally get news on social media, about the same share as at this time in 2017, according to a new Pew Research Center survey.
Many of these consumers, however, are skeptical of the information they see there: A majority (57%) say they expect the news they see on social media to be largely inaccurate. Still, most social media news consumers say getting news this way has made little difference in their understanding of current events, and more say it has helped than confused them (36% compared with 15%).
Republicans are more negative about the news they see on social media than Democrats. Among Republican social media news consumers, 72% say they expect the news they see there to be inaccurate, compared with 46% of Democrats and 52% of independents. And while 42% of those Democrats who get news on social media say it has helped their understanding of current events, fewer Republicans (24%) say the same.1 Even among those Americans who say they prefer to get news on social media over other platforms (such as print, TV or radio), a substantial portion (42%) express this skepticism.
Asked what they like about the news experience on social media, more Americans mention ease of use than content. “Convenience” is by far the most commonly mentioned benefit, (21%), while 8% say they most enjoy the interactions with other people. Fewer social media news consumers say they most like the diversity of the sources available (3%), or the ability to tailor the content they see (2%).
Facebook is still far and away the site Americans most commonly use for news, with little change since 2017. About four-in-ten Americans (43%) get news on Facebook. The next most commonly used site for news is YouTube, with 21% getting news there, followed by Twitter at 12%. Smaller portions of Americans (8% or fewer) get news from other social networks like Instagram, LinkedIn or Snapchat.
Reddit, Twitter, Facebook stand out as sites with the most news-focused usersReddit, Twitter and Facebook stand out as the sites where the highest portion of users are exposed to news – 67% of Facebook’s users get news there, as do 71% of Twitter’s users and 73% of Reddit users.
However, because Facebook’s overall user base is much larger than those of Twitter or Reddit, far more.
Nearly four-in-ten YouTube users (38%) say they get news on YouTube, slightly higher than the 32% of users who did so last year. And 30% of LinkedIn users get news there, up from 23% in 2017.
The percentage of U.S. adults who get news on two or more social media sites is 28%, little changed from 2017 (26%).
Social media sites’ news consumers can look vastly different in terms of their demographic makeup. For example, the majority of news consumers on Instagram are nonwhite. Three-quarters of Snapchat’s news consumers are ages 18 to 29, more than any other site. And LinkedIn, Twitter and Reddit’s news consumers are more likely to have bachelor’s degrees – 61% of LinkedIn’s news consumers do, as do 46% of Reddit’s news consumers and 41% of Twitter’s news consumers.
Most social media news consumers are concerned about inaccuracy, but many still see benefits
More than half of social media news consumers expect the news there to largely be inaccurateEven though a substantial portion of U.S. adults at least occasionally get news on social media, over half (57%) of these news consumers say they expect the news they see on social media to be largely inaccurate. This is consistent with the low trust in news from social media seen in past surveys. About four-in-ten (42%) expect the news they see on social media to be largely accurate.
Concerns about the inaccuracies in news on social media are prevalent even among those who say they prefer to get their news there – among this group, 42% say that they expect the news they see to largely be inaccurate. Still, those social media news consumers who prefer other platforms such as print or television for news are even more likely to say they expect the news on social media to be largely inaccurate.
The most commonly named positive thing about getting news on social media is convenience – 21% say this is what they liked most, with responses such as “It’s very accessible,” “It’s available at the touch of a button” and “I don’t have to go looking for it.”
Respondents also say they like the interpersonal element: 8% of social media news consumers say they enjoy interacting with others – whether through discussing the news, sharing news with friends and family, or seeing what others’ opinions are. Speed and timeliness are also mentioned as positive aspects of getting news on social media – 7% say they like how quick it is to get news on social media, and 6% say they like that news there is up to date, with descriptions like “up to the minute” or “the most current.”
About a third say social media positively affects their understanding of current events
Majority says social media news does not improve their understanding of current eventsAbout a third (36%) of the people who get news on social media say it has helped them better understand current events. Nearly half (48%) say it doesn’t have much of an effect on their understanding, and 15% say that news on social media has made them more confused about current events.
Age is also a factor in the way people view the role of social media. Younger social media news consumers are more likely to say it has impacted their learning for the better. About half of social media news consumers ages 18 to 29 (48%) say news on social media makes them better informed, compared.