Recent research by a range of independent organizations has documented the “racial” divide on social media. A recent Pew Research Center survey of 1,802 internet users suggested that different ethnographic groups differ in preference of social media platforms (Duggan & Brenner, 2013). Twitter attracts significantly more black users compared to other races and ethnicities. Blacks and Hispanics appear to have a bigger presence on Instagram compared to whites, who flock to Pinterest.

The Influence Opinions team decided to look a bit deeper into this divide. We were curious whether the differences in social media use related to political behavior, so we dove into an earlier 2012 Pew data set on social media and politics (Rainie & Smith, 2012). Our analysis of the data revealed some intriguing clues into the intersection of race/ethnicity, politics and social media use. For ease of interpretation we only included decided responses (leaving out those who were unsure or refused on a specific question).

  • Blacks and Hispanics/Latinos are more likely than whites to use social media for political news, discussing and debating political issues, and finding others with similar political beliefs



  • Hispanics and Latinos are significantly less likely to report having changed a view on a political issue based on social media

The implications for of the interaction between race/ethnicity and political behavior on social media channels are major in the world of public affairs and politics. Racial and ethnic minorities, especially blacks living in urban areas, are increasingly turning to online and digital infrastructures to amplify their political voice. At the same time, public officials and political operatives face a huge opportunity to develop new tactics for reaching an increasing population of politically-minded ethnic and racial minority voters. In Part 2 we will do some more digging to see how social media behavior may influence real-life political action.

– Loren

Duggan, M. and Brenner, J. The Demographics of Social Media Users. Pew Internet & American Life Project, Feb. 14, 2013,
Rainie, L. and Smith, A. Social Networking Sites and Politics. Pew Internet & American Life Project. Mar. 12, 2012,