Of the Twitter users aged 18 to 34 surveyed, 45% said they had become interested in or joined a political or social cause that they learned about through the site, and 37% said they used the site to actively look for information about politics or the UK general election.
One in three 18- to 34-year-old users had changed their vote from one party to another, 47% had reconsidered their views on a specific issue based on what they’d seen on the site, and 20% said they were still undecided about how they planned to vote.
There are more than 15 million Twitter users in the UK, but the power of social media over voting intentions has always been disputed. During the campaigning for Scotland’s independence referendum, the yes campaign was winning on social media from the start, something that didn’t appear to translate into votes.
The study of 3,000 people showed that young users were less likely to vote than users as a whole, with 74% of those polled saying they would vote in the next election, compared with 83% generally. UK voter turnout in the 2010 election was around 65%.
Twitter’s global head of news, government and elections, Adam Sharp, said: “With more than three-quarters [78%] of MPs already on the platform, along with every major news outlet and political party in the country, we know Twitter is where the live conversation about the election is happening.”
Of the users surveyed, 70% said they use Twitter to get information in a “simple to understand way”; 66% use it to “get a more honest and unpolished perspective on politics”; and 44% said they thought Twitter provided genuinely unbiased coverage.
The research comes the day after Douglas Alexander, the head of the Labour party’s election strategy, said it was getting harder for politicians to campaign in elections because of conspiracy theories on social media. Speaking at a conference in central London organised by LabourList, the shadow foreign secretary said voters were increasingly getting their information from the “echo chamber” of Facebook and Twitter.
“We are used to a politics where we share facts, but diverge on opinion,” he said. “We are confronting increasingly, because of the rise of social media, a politics where people’s social media feeds can be an echo chamber for, at best, their own opinions and, at worst, their own prejudices. And that’s a tough challenge for all democratic politicians in every party of the UK, and more broadly.”
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