Most U.S. adults think social media is bad for democracy, study shows

Story at a glance

  • A new study from the Pew Research Center surveyed people from 19 economically advanced countries on their opinion about social media and the internet.

  • The survey findings show that Americans were the most skeptical about social media.

  • Nearly two-thirds of survey respondents from the U.S. said they believe social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, TikTok and YouTube have been bad for democracy.

A new Pew Research Center survey found that the bulk of U.S. adults feel that social media has had a bad effect on the health of democracy.

Pew researchers surveyed 19 countries along with the United States including France, Israel, the United Kingdom, Australia and Canada.

Out of the countries surveyed, a median of 57 percent of respondents said they believed social media has done more good than bad for their nation’s democracy, while 35 percent said they believe it has been bad.

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But that number was drastically smaller among respondents from the United States.

Only 34 percent of U.S. respondents said they think social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp have been good for democracy while 64 percent said that they have had a bad impact.

More people from the U.S believe the platforms and the internet in general have deepened political divisions than any other country surveyed.

According to the survey, 79 percent of U.S. respondents said they believe access to the internet and social media platforms made people more divided in their political opinions.

And 69 percent said they think the internet and social media have made people less civil in how they speak to others about politics.

The rise of social media platforms has made these virtual spaces common discussion rooms for politics and social issues. But numerous studies have shown that the echo chambers that form on these platforms along with the spread of disinformation and potential for political surveillance seriously undermines democracy.

Most of the Pew survey respondents recognized this threat as well, particularly when it came to the spread of misinformation.

A median of 84 percent of respondents from all the countries surveyed said they believed social media and access to the internet made it easier to manipulate people with rumors and wrong information.

Another analysis of the same survey found that 70 percent of respondents across all 19 countries surveyed believe the spread of false information online to be a “major threat.”

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