Poll: Nearly two-thirds of Americans say social media platforms are tearing us apart

·3 min read

WASHINGTON — Most Americans admit they use social media at least once a day, but they also believe platforms like Facebook and Twitter are doing more to divide the nation than to bring it together, according to brand-new results from the latest national NBC News poll.

Overall, 66 percent of adults say they use social media once a day or more, versus 33 percent who don't.

The numbers are essentially unchanged from when the poll asked this same question in 2018 and 2019.

But 64 percent of Americans think social media platforms do more to divide us, and that includes majorities of Republicans (77 percent), independents (65 percent) and Democrats (54 percent), as well as majorities of whites (70 percent), Latinos (56 percent), young adults (61 percent) and seniors (71 percent).

By contrast, just 27 percent of all adults believe that those platforms do more to bring us together.

Notably, Black respondents are the one demographic split on this question, with 42 percent saying it’s more divisive, while 40 percent say it’s more unifying.

When the poll last asked this question in March 2019, 57 percent of respondents said social media platforms do more to divide us, while 35 percent said they more to unite us.

But there’s a different finding when the question turns to quality of life.

Among daily social media users, 49 percent say social media platforms make their lives better, while 37 percent say they make their lives worse.

Democrats, women and college graduates are more likely to say that social media make their lives better, versus Republicans, men and those without college degrees who are more likely to disagree.

An increase in screen time

The NBC News poll also finds a majority of parents — 54 percent — saying the time their children have spent on computer screens, phones, tablets and TVs has increased during the pandemic.

Thirty-eight percent of parents say the amount of screen time for their children has stayed the same, and just 4 percent say it’s declined.

When the parents who said their children’s screen time has increased during the pandemic were asked to quantify just how many more minutes per day their children spend on devices, the average spike was 154 minutes — so nearly two hours more per day.

Among all adult respondents in the poll, 43 percent say their screen time had increased during the pandemic while 49 percent say it has stayed the same, and 8 percent say it’s decreased.

The NBC News poll was conducted April 17-20, and most of the survey results were released in late April. The margin of error for the 1,000 adult respondents is plus-minus 3.1 percentage points. The margin of error for the 655 adults who use social media daily is plus-minus 3.8 percentage points. The margin of error of the 238 parents in the poll with children under the age of 18 is plus-minus 6.4 percentage points.

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