From global protests against racial injustice during the 2020 elections, some Americans who use social media are taking to these platforms to mobilize others and show their support for causes and issues. But experiences and attitudes related to political activities on social media vary by race, ethnicity, age and party.
People can be politically active on social media in many ways. This survey asked Americans about four different types of activities that may have been engaged in on those platforms. Overall, about one third of social media users (36%) say they have used sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram in the past months to post a picture to show their support a certain cause, look up information about rallies, or protests at a certain area (35%) or encourage others to take action on issues they deem as important (32%). A smaller share (18%) supports using a hashtag related to a political or social issue on social media during this time.
But in certain activities, African American users stand out: 48% of black social media users say they have posted a picture of certain things on social media to show their support for a causer in the past months, compared with 37% of Hispanics and whites put together. Black adults who use social media (45%) are also most likely than their Hispanic and white counterparts to say that in the past months they’ve taken to social media to encourage others to take action on issues that are important to them. African American users are also more than twice as likely as white users to say that they have used a hashtag related to a political or social issue on these platforms in the past months (33% to 15%) while Hispanic users fall in between these two groups (22%).
Social media engagements for causes or issues also varies by age. Just over half of social media users ages 18 to 29 (54%) say that they have used these sites in the past month to look for information about rallies or protests happening in their area, compared with 36% of those ages 30 to 49. Social media users under the age of 30 are also more likely than those who are 30 and older to say they have issues that they see as important, while there are smaller age gaps when it comes to painting a picture.
Racial differences are also present among younger groups, with young African American social media users being particularly likely to post hashtags or encourage others to be politically engaged. For example, 55% of black social media users ages 18 to 49 say they posted a picture to show support for a cause. in the past month, compared to 4 in 10 Hispanics (37%) or white users (36%) in the same range. Among adults under the age of 50, black users (44%) are as twice as likely than whites (22%0 and Hispanic (23%) say they have used a hashtag in the past months.