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Millennials use Facebook for politics more than older generations

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Facebook is the most used source for political news among the Millennial generation, according to a new Pew Research report.

More than 60 percent of people between 18 and 33 surveyed said they get their political news from the popular social media site during any given week.

That number nearly mirrors the source of political news for the older Baby Boomer generation (50-68) who turn to TV news. Meanwhile, only about 39 percent of Baby Boomers rely on Facebook for the news.

Generation X, the group that splits Millennials and Baby Boomers aged about 34-49, uses Facebook about 51 percent of the time.

The data also found that nearly a quarter of the Millennial generation using Facebook report seeing at least half of the posts on their news feed related to government or politics. Generation X respondents reported 18 percent of posts were political in nature while Baby Boomers said only 16 percent were.

The differences in political Facebooking comes despite the fact that the poll showed Millennials were less interested in politics than the older generations. Only 26 percent of Millennials indicated politics as one of their top three topics. Nearly half of Baby Boomers had government and politics in their top three and 34 percent of Generation Xers indicated a preference for politics.

Where the three generations differ in social media consumption of the news, they agree on media in general. All of the age groups indicated they only trust an average of four in 10 news sources they hear from. The whole group surveyed said they distrust two out of 10.

The findings bring up important questions regarding news consumption in an evolving media environment. More and more traditional news sources are fading as key demographics get older. Where watching the evening news on television offers a simplified explanation of the day’s happenings, social media posts about the news offer the chance for conversation and nuance.

As Pew notes in its research, the prevalence of political posts on social media could lend itself to increasing political polarization. Though that incidence is likely to more heavily impact Baby Boomers.

Data from the survey found 31 percent of Baby Boomers on Facebook say the political posts they see are almost or almost always in line with their own views. That indication is higher among the oldest of the three generations with Gen Xers at 21 percent and Millennials at 18 percent.

The survey was conducted between March 19 and April 29 among 2,900 members of the Pew Research Center’s American Trends Panel. The survey excluded the generation above the Baby Boomers. The Silent Generation contains those aged 69-86. Most of that age demographic indicated during polling they were not Internet-users. Because of that, the generation was excluded from results.

Janelle Irwin has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. She also hosts a weekly political talk show on WMNF Community radio. Janelle formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for Patch.com and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a diehard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and the ongoing Pier debacle. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also the devoted mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder. To contact, email janelle@floridapolitics.com.

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