STUDY: How Do Conservatives and Liberals Differ in Their Facebook Activity?

By David Cohen 

DonkeyElephant650The U.S. political spectrum can, for the most part, be divided into conservatives and liberals, but which group is more likely to see like-minded political content on Facebook from news organizations, groups and friends, and which group is more likely to block or defriend users over political posts? The answers, from the latest research by Pew Research Center, may come as a surprise.

Pew Research Center’s American Trends Panel analyzed the answers of 2,901 web respondents from March 19 through April 29, and highlights of its findings follow:

  • 47 percent of conservatives who responded to the poll and who pay attention to political posts on Facebook said the posts they see are mostly or always in line with their own views, compared with just 32 percent for liberals.


  • 44 percent of liberals said they have blocked or defriended someone on Facebook or other social networks due to a disagreement with something that person posted about politics, versus 31 percent of conservatives and 26 percent of all Facebook users.


  • 60 percent of liberals like or follow issue-based groups on Facebook, compared with 46 percent of conservatives and 33 percent of respondents with mixed views.
  • 49 percent of conservatives follow political parties or elected officials, versus 42 percent of liberals and 29 percent of overall Facebook users.


  • 48 percent of respondents said they accessed news about politics and government via Facebook in the past week, barely trailing local TV (49 percent), although Pew noted that this figure was derived from the 89 percent of Americans with Internet access, and the overall percentage of people who get news via Facebook in a typical week is 39 percent.
  • When it comes to social networks as a source of political or government news, Facebook’s 49 percent is dominant when contrasted with YouTube (14 percent), Twitter (9 percent), Google Plus (6 percent) and LinkedIn (3 percent).
  • Pew said of Facebook’s dominance in the category: “In part, this stems from Facebook’s broad reach; it is by far the largest social media platform. Fully 77 percent of Web panelists use Facebook. That compares with 63 percent who use YouTube and much smaller shares who use Twitter (22 percent), Google Plus (24 percent) or LinkedIn (26 percent). But even holding its more widespread use constant, a greater portion of Facebook’s audience gets political news there than is true for other social networks — 62 percent. That compares with 40 percent of all Twitter users, about one-quarter of those on YouTube (22 percent) or Google Plus (25 percent) and just 12% of LinkedIn users.”


  • 19 percent of conservatives who see political posts on Facebook pay a lot of attention to them, and 47 percent pay some attention, while those numbers are similar for liberals at 14 percent and 46 percent, respectively.


Pew Research Center director of journalism research Amy Mitchell said in a release announcing the results:

The differences between the media habits of liberals and conservatives — and between those in the ideological ends and the middle — is striking, but this report also shows that it’s difficult for anyone to live in an information silo. Whether they are looking for it or not, most people today are exposed to political views that differ from their own.

Readers: What did you think of the findings by Pew Research Center, and how did they match up with your experiences when politics and Facebook intersect?

Donkey and elephant image courtesy of Shutterstock.