Introduction

Every fall and spring, the Harvard Public Opinion Project (HPOP) releases America's largest poll of young people. The poll usually gets a great deal of national coverage. Unfortunately, much of this coverage only goes skin deep, highlighting the supposed apathy of young people in America and our cynicism about the future of politics. This project, a partnership between HPOP and the HPR, aims to provide some additional context and analysis. Indeed, on everything from ISIS to their support of Congress, millennials don't seem to fit any convenient political mold. They're deep-thinking, conflicted, and crucial to America's future. Read our analysis of the most recent HPOP poll to find out more. Image Credit: Wikipedia.

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HPRgument Posts | October 29, 2014 at 10:42 am

Social Media Usage on the Rise for Women and Likely Voters

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For young Americans, social media usage is becoming increasingly diversified. There are more social media platforms than ever before. Relatively new platforms—like Snapchat, Instagram, and Tumblr—are rapidly gaining popularity. While 84 percent of polled individuals claimed to use Facebook in the spring of 2014, only 79.5 percent of them claimed to use Facebook in the fall of 2014. Likewise, while 40 percent of polled individuals claimed to use Twitter in the spring of 2014, only 37.9 percent of them claimed to use Twitter in the fall of 2014.

Other platforms have experienced an uptick in users. Instagram users increased from 36 percent in the spring of 2014 to 38.9 percent in the fall. Snapchat users increased from 23 percent in the spring of 2014 to 28 percent in the fall. This diversification of social media usage is important because it has coincided with a series of subsequent shifts: primarily, the rise of women on social media, as well as the rise of politically active people on social media. Taking these two trends together, one can argue that the diversification of social media platforms—particularly the rise of new ones that are gaining momentum among women in particular—may be contributing to the rise of a larger populace of more politically active women.

In general, overall social media usage appears to be on the rise for women. Most notably, while only 12 percent of men polled reported using Pinterest, 48 percent of women reported using Pinterest. Women also participate in Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Tumblr more so than men, by between five and ten percentage points. This growing gender gap in social media usage relates in part to the increasing diversification of social media usage.

Though these four platforms differ significantly, they are similar in that they target women more actively than they target men. Platforms such as Facebook and Twitter are gender-neutral in the way they brand themselves as well as the way they target their users and audience. Instagram, Pinterest, and Tumblr, however, more actively promote themselves to women and brand themselves as more female-friendly. These sites and applications target a female audience primarily through interface design and content emphasis – for example, a strong emphasis on beauty and fashion products or a strong emphasis on home decor, areas traditionally aimed to target women more so than men.

This is especially significant when considering the other major trend in social media usage: increased political activity and voter likelihood among social media users. Another general trend among poll results is that likely voters are more likely to engage in social media usage. This correlates with a trend that shows that people who engage more with social media are also more likely to be more politically active. Eighty-four percent of politically active people use Facebook, as opposed to 80 percent of politically inactive people. This trend holds true for Google+, Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr, and Snapchat. On all of those social media platforms, a greater percentage of politically active people are users of social media. Furthermore, throughout all social media platforms, active participants in social media also tend to be more politically active.

Though platforms like Snapchat and Pinterest do not directly facilitate these discussions nor provide a means for people to follow or “like” a particular political figure or party, it is possible that people who use applications and sites like Snapchat and Pinterest actively are more likely to be active on other social media platforms that are more conducive to generating political activity, such as Facebook or Twitter.

Though we shouldn’t confuse correlation with causation, there is a direct connection between voter likelihood and social media usage. Those who are more likely to vote are more likely to be active on social media. 82 percent of definite voters and 84 percent of likely voters use Facebook, while only 73 percent of non-voters use Facebook. And in general, for all social media platforms, definite and likely voters consist of a higher proportion of the users, usually by about 10 percentage points. The data seems to suggest that people who are definite and likely voters are more likely to use social media than people who do not intend to vote.

The correlation between these two implications—that the diversification of social media platforms leads to social media users who are predominantly female, as well as social media users who are more politically active—is significant as it suggests that the rising popularity of new social media platforms like Snapchat, Instagram, and Pinterest is contributing to the rise of a large populace of more politically active women. While the causative nature of this relationship is still unclear, the strong correlation seems to suggest, at the very least, that there is a growing population of women voters and politically active women.

Perhaps social media platforms are simply serving as a mechanism for already politically active women to express their beliefs. Therefore, one could also argue that politically active women choose to more actively engage in social media. However, both conclusions point to a growing populace of politically engaged young women.

Image credit: socialmediamarketing.com

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