Facebook Is for Republicans; Twitter Is for Democrats
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If you're looking to find (or avoid) Republican messages in social media, Facebook may be your best bet. For Democratic messaging, head over to Twitter or Reddit.
That's the finding of ShareThis, a California company that tracks sharing behavior online. It also found -- not surprisingly -- that millennials dominate political conversations on social media.
ShareThis, headquartered in Palo Alto, Calif., analyzed information shared by 210 million individuals between July and October and found the issues most likely to be shared -- especially by millennials -- are not what Gallup and other pollsters have determined to be most important to voters.
Respondents to Gallup polls said the economy, jobs and government effectiveness were the top issues in this midterm election, which has failed to coalesce around a single issue.
But ShareThis found climate change, healthcare and immigration were the topics most often shared on social media.
ShareThis used data collected from the button it has placed on dozens of web pages, including popular media sites such as USAToday, the Daily Beast and CNN Money. It uses a third-party database to determine the demographics of those who use their button, including age, gender and race.
Vivien Pillet, manager of research at ShareThis, said sharing overall "skewed towards Democratic themes," an indication Democrats are more comfortable than Republicans in discussing politics on social media.
ShareThis also determined political discussions on social media appear to be as polarized as they are elsewhere.
Top issues for Republicans include the economy, foreign affairs, taxes and immigration, and were more likely to be shared on Facebook.
Democrat-favored issues such as climate change, income equality and abortion rights were shared more on Twitter and Reddit.
A departure from the Democrat's edge on sharing was found in ShareThis' analysis of the eight most competitive Senate races, which found information about Republican candidates was shared much more often in all of these races except for two, those in Louisiana and Pennsylvania.
ShareThis also found that 33% of millennials – defined by the company as those 18 to 34 years old -- have shared information concerning the midterm election, 112% more than the rest of Americans.
Online influence vs. reality
While ShareThis says a millennial tendency to share make them "1.7X as influential" as others, based on the "clickbacks" of their postings, Mr. Pillet concedes this interest in politics doesn't translate into millennial votes.
A recent Tufts University study found millennials are more likely than older Americans to say their vote doesn't matter and to say they are too busy to vote.
"They may be less likely to vote but they are still the most likely to engage in politics on social media," Mr. Pillet said. "If politicians could find a way to channel that activity they really would hit the goldmine."
Looking at a dominant foreign-policy issue, the actions of an Islamic militant group known as ISIS, ShareThis found millennials were twice as likely to share a news event within 24 hours as older Americans and more likely to stop discussing the event after two weeks.
ShareThis also found the highest spike in sharing between July 18 and Oct. 18 was prompted by Florida Gov. Rick Scott's refusing to take the stage for a debate against opponent Charlie Crist because the Crist campaign had placed a small electric fan near his podium.