84% Of US Adults Don't Use Twitter, Only 4% Of Americans Over 30 Get Their News From Twitter, Pew Study Finds

Tyler Durden's picture

When it comes to Twitter, there seems to be a discrepancy in the publicly available user data. Recall that according to the company's S-1 filing, Twitter's US monthly user base has risen from 10 million in 2010 to just shy of 50 million.

And yet, according to a just released Pew Research poll, a whopping 84% of the US adults were not Twitter users, and perhaps more importantly, of the 16% of adult users, half admitted to using Twitter for news.

Narrowing this down even further, close to half, or 45%, of Twitter news consumers were under 30, which implies that roughly 4% of American adults use Twitter as something more than just a place to vent occasionally, and actually have a productive use for the service.

In attempting to reconcile the two vastly differing sets of numbers, one from the company and one from Pew, one wonders: is Twitter merely the latest platform for "socializing" teens who unfortunately for Twitter's advertisers (who between Google, Facebook, Pinterest, Yahoo and so on, seem to have infinite advertising budgets) don't have access to a credit card? And what happens when, just like FaceBook, Twitter's coolness factor disappears and only the hardcore, and quite paltry, news users remain?

Indeed, Pew confirms that Twitter is largely focused on younger, more educated Americans, even compared to FaceBook:

Twitter news consumers stand out for being younger and more educated than both the population overall and Facebook news consumers


Close to half, 45%, of Twitter news consumers are 18-29 years old. That is more than twice that of the population overall (21%) and also outpaces young adults’ representation among Facebook news consumers, where 34% are 18-29 years old. Further, just 2% of Twitter news consumers are 65 or older, compared with 18% of the total population and 7% of Facebook news consumers..

The fact that Twitter users, by virtue of being less, are more educated than FaceBook users, should not come as a surprise:

Twitter news consumers also tend to be more educated than the general population and than Facebook news consumers. Four-in-ten (40%) Twitter news consumers have at least a bachelor’s degree, compared with 29% of the total population and 30% of Facebook news consumers.Close to half, 45%, of Twitter news consumers are 18-29 years old. That is more than twice that of the population overall (21%) and also outpaces young adults’ representation among Facebook news consumers, where 34% are 18-29 years old. Further, just 2% of Twitter news consumers are 65 or older, compared with 18% of the total population and 7% of Facebook news consumers.

More from Pew:

Nearly one-in-ten U.S. adults (8%) get news through Twitter, according to a new report by the Pew Research Center, in collaboration with the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. Compared with the 30% of Americans who get news on Facebook, Twitter news consumers stand out as younger, more mobile and more educated.


In addition, a separate Pew Research analysis of conversations on Twitter around major news events reveals three common characteristics: much of what gets posted centers on passing along breaking news; sentiments shift considerably over time; and however passionate, the conversations do not necessarily track with public opinion.


This two-part report is based first on a survey of more than 5,000 U.S. adults (including 736 Twitter users and 3,268 Facebook users) and, second, on an analysis of Twitter conversations surrounding major news events which spanned nearly three years. Twitter posts were analyzed for the information shared, sentiments expressed and ebb and flow of interest.


According to the survey, 16% of U.S. adults use Twitter. Among those, roughly half (52%) “ever” get news there — with news defined as “information about events and issues that involve more than just your friends or family.”

So just how does Twitter serve as a source of information distribution:

Separately, Pew Research Center tracked and analyzed the Twitter conversations surrounding 10 major news events that occurred between May 2011 and October 2013. The events ranged from the opening night of the summer Olympics to the Newtown Conn. school shootings to the Supreme Court hearings on same-sex marriage. Using computer software developed by Crimson Hexagon, researchers examined which elements of the news events were discussed, the tone of the tweets and the ebb and flow of Twitter engagement. From that research, three central themes emerge:


A core function of Twitter is passing along pieces of information as the story develops. Even with the outpouring of emotion after the July 13, 2013, acquittal of George Zimmerman in the death of teenager Trayvon Martin, the largest component of the Twitter conversation (39% of all expressed sentiments in tweets about the event) shared news of that verdict without offering an opinion. Straight news accounts also led the Twitter conversations about the Oct. 1 rollout of the Affordable Care Act (42%) and the concurrent federal government shutdown (35%) — two events that stirred political passions.


The Twitter conversation about big news events can shift and evolve, both in terms of sentiment and topic. In the two weeks after the March 2013 Supreme Court hearings on same-sex marriage, Twitter sentiment was far more opposed to the idea of legalizing same-sex marriage (55%) than in favor (32%). Yet in the month after that, support for same-sex marriage (43%) easily trumped opposition (26%). A study of the aftermath of the Newtown shooting reveals how quickly the focus of the Twitter conversation can change. On Dec. 14, 2012, expressions of sympathy for the victims made up nearly one-third of the conversation; by Dec. 17, it was down to 13%. In the same period, attention to President Obama, the shooter and mental health issues more than doubled — from 11% to 24% of the conversation.


Although sentiment on Twitter can sometimes match that of the general population, it is not a reliable proxy for public opinion. During the 2012 presidential race, Republican candidate Ron Paul easily won the Twitter primary — 55% of the conversation about him was positive, with only 15% negative. Voters rendered a very different verdict. After the Newtown tragedy, 64% of the Twitter conversation supported stricter gun controls, while 21% opposed them. A Pew Research Center survey in the same period produced a far more mixed verdict, with 49% saying it is more important to control gun ownership and 42% saying it is more important to protect gun rights.

So what is the take home? Is the spin here that there is a vast, untapped audience Twitter can reach and expand to? Perhaps, however, it appears that intelligence is a gating factor on just who uses the 140 character-limited service. If so, considering the distribution curve of US IQ, Twitter's best expansion days may be behind it, with only the lowest common denominator left: the tag ends of FaceBook users who migrate to the "cooler" social platform, with zero ad spending intent or capacity.

Or perhaps there is an optimistic case, and more Americans will ditch existing news outlets, and move aggressively to Twitter. One can hope. However, what is certainly unknown is just how the company's aggressive push into monetization impacts those who provide free content on Twitter, and whether in an attempt to monetize this "free content", Twitter will follow legacy media and start imposing paywalls and gates. If so, then just like Facebook, Twitter will merely be a brief stepping stone on the path to the next bigger, better and cooler social media platform which works great.... until it too has to start monetizing itself. Because if there is one thing that has become clear, is that in a world in which information always find a way to be exchanged instantly, and freely, anyone attempting to monetize such infromation flow always has an uphill climb.

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Ignatius's picture

Luddites unite. 

Real men don't 'tweet'.

Mark Carney's picture

They never asked me, so make that 85%

hedgeless_horseman's picture




Manthong's picture

..aint never done no tweets or twats..

dus that mean I am out of the loop?

VD's picture

the above further proves idiocy of 'Merkinz; Facebook inferior to Twitter and that's putting it kindly (FB = idiocy).

There's a reason why Tylerz are Tweeting 24/7: Twitter is extremely useful.

Stackers's picture

I still have 10,000 shares of Pet Rock.

It's coming back any day now .......

thisandthat's picture

Look on the bright side: TWTR has the growth potential to be the new BTC. Bullish!

VD's picture

Twitter allows for customized rapid haiku-like flow of info.

Facebook is look at me I'm (____); look at me I baked a fucking cake and i'm (___).Many ZH'erz can clearly relate more to Facebook, even as they bash it.


LFMayor's picture

Yeah, you're cool becasue you tweet.

The negative comments posted about this article made your little pee pee sting, didn't it?

VD's picture

i'm smart(er) bc i tweet. and i'm totally chill re: dumb neg comments: i'm used to last year or so IQ drop on da 'Hedge.

LFMayor's picture

you know, way back in '81, I'm sure there was a pot head someplace who said the same thing about his high score on Space Invaders. 

VD's picture

that same now burn out that still doesn't get it today? thx for confirming LFM.

ElvisDog's picture

Let me guess, VD, you are a twitter investor? "flow of info", eh? Twitter is way of posting nude pictures of your ex-girlfriend and for telling people you don't know that they're idiots. It's also so people can feel important because celebrities appear to be sending them messages.

ElvisDog's picture

My take is that anyone who has a full time job and family responsibilities doesn't have time for twitter. It really is a platform for idle people who want to waste time. Whatever time I have to waste, I choose to waste on other things (like ZH).

Lost My Shorts's picture

Wasting time is only half the essence of twitter.  The other half is that eventually you will tweet something obnoxious and stupid and lose your job, friends, college admission, or have it used in court against you etc.

The closest pre-net analogy might be juggling unexploded ordnance.  Waste of time waste of time waste of BOOM.

Stoploss's picture

The first one to put free texting on a ten dollar shitbox device, ends every one of these farces in about fifteen seconds.

The kids are searching for free shit because they are broke, and have no job, or hope of ever having one.

Fortunately, the Central Planners have this well under control. LOL.

TWTR = (another) FAD.

Headbanger's picture

Bingo!   It's another CB radio fad ..   Breaker breaker one-nine!  Don't feed the bears takin yo picture on exit 10 and watch yo back door for more, copy!?

smlbizman's picture

i still do the twist in my platform shoes and bell bottoms....

Renewable Life's picture

The above comments nailed it, HOWEVER Twitters entire valuation is based on one idiotic idea, Twitter will replace Neilson ratings (and the box) for TV and Cable, and create a NEW advertsing reality online!

ONE PROBLEM....the reason Neilson Ratings worked for decades on a very small sampling core, was IT WAS A BOX, that connected to your tv set and people forgot about it! Twitter is dependent on humans doing something over and over forever!!!

If you made money on twitter, congrats, sell it, the best days are over, both in terms of share price and the technology itself!

I'm off to SBSW to look for that "$10 shitbox device that does free text"!

Silver Bully's picture



MySpace is calling from 2003, they'd like their mojo back.

azzhatter's picture

I don't twitter, I don't Facebook, I rarely email and I don't have a smartphone. I have this silly little habit of actually talking to people. And I don't give a fuck about kardashian's fat ass, Bieber, or the rest of the social fucks. I do read a lot and I buy actual books, not a fucking Kindle. I am a luddite I suppose and will continue to be so. I did have a very nice stack of shiny metal prior to that unfortunate maritime incident

Fuck You Bernanke

VD's picture

well at least you comment daily here LOL!

VD's picture

Ignatius: tell that to Tylerz in da basement when shirts are off: https://twitter.com/zerohedge

codecode's picture

I created a Twit account couple years ago to see what it was all about... have not used it since...

divedivedive's picture

As did I. I just logged into my account and there doesn't seem to be a 'delete account' function, only 'deactivate account'. I tried that - it prompts for a password and then just loops right back to - deactivate account. Guess they will never lose their customer base that way...

ATM's picture

I couldn't delete either. Never used it other than to follow a few people who do tweet but I ended up stopping because it's so fucking annoying.

What I will say is that younger kids are dumping Facebook and doing Twitter + Instagram. I have kids from age 29 down to 17. 17 yr old and all her friends don't facebook any longer. I think it's over. As will twitter be in a few years as the next wave of kids latches on to something else.


Twitter = Prodigy

Facebook = AOL

Father Lucifer's picture

I tried to create an account once but the username I wanted wasn't available so I said fuck it don't need it and that was the right answer.


Burn in hell Bernake.

toady's picture

Exactamundo. All these tech IPOs are based on nothing. Advertising to a crowd of people with zero attention spans? Yeah, that's worthwhile. I cannot count the number if times I've heard or said 'I made an account, but I never use it' regarding the latest & greatest social network.

When is the ZH IPO?

InflammatoryResponse's picture



Toady you missed the point.  the AWESOME part is the IPO is based on nothing.  you had that right in spades.  they are advertising to people with ZERO attention spans and ZERO income.  (that was the part you missed :)  )



ZH ipo wiht the word zero in it.  what could go wrong on that IPO?  :)



krispkritter's picture

Consider yourself 'enrolled'...

LawsofPhysics's picture

That's okay, the rest of them get "news" from credible sources like Jon Stewart.


Seriously though, "news" has about as much meaning as "price discovery" in today's world.

It's all good, all the time...

hedge accordingly.

firstdivision's picture

Just out of curiosity, what is the % of Adult Americans that hookup through Craigslist?

-Guy who is crafting a pitchbook

centerline's picture

Would we call it Twatter then?

Bearwagon's picture

Reading comprehension would be a clear advantage ...

lizzy36's picture

50% of Americans are barely literate let alone twitter users.

As far as "news" most Yanks can only recall the NFL football scores and the stat of their favorite brain damaged (literally) linebacker.

fonzannoon's picture

Look at all that room for market capture!

NotApplicable's picture

Will Tyler be king?


Currently 176,118 followers and counting.

Dr. Engali's picture

Twitter is focused on younger more educated people? WTF? When Justin Beiber is the number one and katty Perry is the number two most popular tweeters, I highly question that statement.

Bearwagon's picture

See, reading comprehension passes as "more educated" these days.

JohnnyBriefcase's picture

Similarly to advertising (25% more free!) it is completely meaningless and relative.

fonzannoon's picture

well to be fair doc they went on to say "than both the population overall and Facebook news consumers"

Which seems to mean they are looking for people that are slightly more educated than rabbit shit.

centerline's picture

Check the batteries in your doublespeak translator!

fredquimby's picture

haha, my parents said the same thing (how can twitter be serious if Bieber is the most popular person on it).