How American Adults on Twitter Use the Site in the Age of Elon Musk

Elon Musk Twitter profile, April 25, 2022 (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Just over a year ago – on April 14, 2022 – Elon Musk announced his intention to buy Twitter. With Musk now at the helm, here are four facts about how adult Twitter users in the US use the site.

The Pew Research Center conducted this analysis to better understand the on-site behaviors of American adults on Twitter since Elon Musk acquired the platform. The data in this report is from the US Trends Panel (ATP) Wave 119 conducted from December 12 to December 18, 2022. The sample consists of panelists who indicated in the survey that they use Twitter and agreed to share a Twitter account for research purposes. After conducting the field survey, the researchers reviewed each account individually and removed any accounts that were suspended, invalid, or that belonged to organizations, products, or international entities.

This final sample of 1,002 US adult Twitter users with valid and active handles was weighted using an iterative technique that matches gender, age, ethnicity, years lived in the US, education, region, party identification, volunteering, voter registration, metropolitan area, frequency of Internet use, and religious affiliation to American Trends Panel in December 2022 (Wave 119) who indicated in this survey that they use Twitter, using Wave 119 as a primary weight. The margin of error for the full sample is plus or minus 4.8 percentage points. For more details, read the Wave 119 methodology.

Findings in this report that examine users’ posting patterns are based on Tweets produced by respondents whose accounts were set to public during the period January 1, 2022, to April 10, 2023. All Tweets posted by these public accounts during this time frame were collected using the Twitter API, This resulted in a total of 620,116 tweets, replies, quote retweets and retweets from 639 users with public accounts who tweeted at least once during that time period. The center’s researchers also identified which tweets from these users mentioned Elon Musk or a Twitter handler using case-insensitive regular expressions.

Two graphs show that mentions of Elon Musk have become more popular among adult Twitter users in the US since early 2022.

Musk himself has become a more popular topic of discussion on Twitter since acquiring the platform. On average, adult Twitter users in the US mentioned Musk in a tweet only once between January 1 and April 13, 2022, before he announced his intention to acquire the platform. However, since then, references to Musk have become more common on the site. These users tweeted about it an average of three times between April 14 and October 26, 2022 — while Musk was in the process of acquiring the platform — and an average of six times in the months after the sale was completed.

When looking at adult Twitter users individually, nearly four in ten have mentioned Musk in a tweet since early 2022. These mentions are especially common among Republicans and Republican-leaning independents who use the platform.

As it was before Musk’s takeover, Twitter activity is still highly concentrated among a relatively small share of the site’s users. A minority of adult Twitter users in the US continue to generate the bulk of the content. Since Musk’s acquisition, 20% of US adults on the site have generated 98% of all tweets by this group.

As in the past, the smaller Democrats and Democrats — 61% — account for these very active tweeters.

The majority of active Twitter users continue to use the site after Musk’s takeover but post less on average. Six out of ten US adults who used Twitter in the past year say they’ve taken a break from the platform recently. And a quarter of those users say they are unlikely to use Twitter a year from now, according to a recent Pew Research Center survey.

The Center’s new analysis of actual behavior on the site found that the most active users before Musk’s acquisition — defined as the top 20% by tweet volume — saw a significant drop in posting in the following months. The average number of tweets these users had per month decreased by about 25% after the acquisition.

Despite this, eight out of ten of the most active adult Twitter users between January 1 and April 14, 2022 remained among the most active users in the months following Musk’s official acquisition of the site in October 2022. The same general pattern applies when narrowing the focus to more 10% Twitter user activity before and after the sale. About three-quarters of those users have remained among at least the top 20% of tweeters since the acquisition.

Retweets are more popular among Democratic Twitter users, while replies are more popular among Republicans. Since Musk’s acquisition of Twitter, three-quarters of all tweets from all US adults on the site have either been retweeted (35%) or replies to other users (40%). The remainder are either original Tweets (15%) or quoted Tweets (9%). But certain groups post an especially high proportion of certain types of Tweets.

Multiple bar charts showing Democrats on Twitter posting a higher share of retweets, and Republicans posting a larger share of replies.

Notably, there are partisan differences in the types of tweets users post. Retweets are the most popular type of tweet from Democrats and smaller Democrats, accounting for half of all tweets from this group. By contrast, replies are the most popular type of tweet by Republicans and smaller Republicans, accounting for 61% of tweets from this group.

Note: For more details, read the Wave 119 methodology.

Read more about the views and habits of Americans on Twitter:

Aaron Smith He is the director of the Data Labs at the Pew Research Center.

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