Pew Research Center Studies Social Media Conversations About Race

African-American social media users are nearly twice as likely as whites to see posts on social networks about race or race relations, at 68 percent and 35 percent, respectively.

African-American social media users are nearly twice as likely as whites to see posts on social networks about race or race relations, at 68 percent and 35 percent, respectively, according to Pew Research Center.

Pew’s new study, Social Media Conversations About Race, also found that 28 percent of African-American social media users said some or most of what they post is about race and race relations, compared with 8 percent of white users, adding that 67 percent of white users said nothing they post or share pertains to race.

Hispanics fell in the middle, with 54 percent saying some of the posts they see are about race or race relations, and 44 percent saying they saw few or no posts on those topics.

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Pew teamed up with Crimson Hexagon to analyze some 995 million tweets about race posted to Twitter from Jan. 1, 2015, through March 31, 2016.

They found that while no single day had fewer than 1.5 million related tweets on the subject, activity spiked on the days immediately following major events, such as the church shooting in Charleston, S.C., and the unrest following the death of Freddie Gray in Baltimore.

Pew and Crimson Hexagon also found that:

  • 60 percent of the tweets they studied were directly related to news and current events.
  • 10 percent were related to the 2016 presidential election.
  • 7 percent were about issues with law enforcement or the judicial system.
  • 7 percent were related to pop-culture events.

Pew also pointed out that the most-used hashtag in Twitter’s history related to social causes was #ferguson, while #blacklivesmatter was No. 3.

Pew and Crimson Hexagon analyzed the 13.3 million tweets containing the hashtags #blacklivesmatter and #alllivesmatter from July 12, 2013, through March 31, 2016, finding that:

  • #blacklivesmatter appeared on Twitter nearly 11.8 million times during that period, compared with 1.5 million for #alllivesmatter.
  • The August 2014 shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., led to the first surge in usage of #blacklivesmatter, and the grand jury decision to not indict the officers involved in Brown’s death sparked its usage even further.
  • The grand jury decision also kick-started usage of #alllivesmatter, but the hashtag surged following the December 2014 shootings of two police officers in New York.
  • 38 percent of tweets containing #blacklivesmatter were supportive of the movement or made positive references to it, while 11 percent were critical of it.
  • Meanwhile, #allivesmatter mentions were nearly evenly split.

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More recently, the police shootings of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, La., July 5, and of Philando Castile in Falcon Heights, Minn., the following day, as well as the shootings of five police officers during protests in Dallas later that week, led to a spike in the usage of both hashtags, as well as #bluelivesmatter, from July 5 through 17, particularly July 8.

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Readers: What did you think of the findings by Pew Research Center?