Twitter Ain’t America

 

An appropriately Twitteresque meme circulated recently on that platform: Write a sad story in just three words. This was an homage to Ernest Hemingway, who, challenged to write a sad story in only six words, grabbed the nearest blank paper and scrawled, “For sale: baby shoes. Never worn.” Or so the story goes. It’s too good to check. Responses to the three-word challenge ran the gamut from “People trust CNN,” to “Trump elected again.” I suggested, “Twitter represents America.”

It would be a sad story if it were true, but there are many reasons to doubt that Twitter represents anything other than a cacophony of curmudgeons.

Consider the Biden touching imbroglio. For days and days, Twitter and other social media were alight with Biden hashtags and hot takes. The phrase “creepy Joe Biden” generated half a million Google searches. In part in response to this, cable commentators speculated about whether Biden’s MeToo moment (which it really wasn’t) would prove fatal to his potential presidential run.

Or not. A number of surveys this week show that voters, in general, are in a different world from social media. The key constituency for a Biden bid — Democratic primary voters — are untroubled by reports of his excessive touching. A Quinnipiac poll of California Democrats (California has an early primary next year), found that 71 percent did not regard the touching as a serious issue. That included 67 percent of women. A Morning Consult poll found that Biden is a double-digit favorite among Democrats for the nomination, and enjoys a 14-point lead in early voting states. A separate poll of Iowa Democrats also put Biden at the top of the list.

There is a message here for candidates and also for ordinary Twitter denizens. It’s tempting for candidates to pitch their messages to the Twitter audience. It can provide a sugar high of immediate positive feedback. And who doesn’t love sugar? But as the Hidden Tribes project has found, the Democrats who post to social media like Twitter are markedly to the left of Democrats as a whole. As Nate Cohn and Kevin Quealy break it down in The New York Times, 53 percent of Democrats, but only 29 percent of Democrats who sound off on social media describe themselves as moderate or conservative. Seventy percent of Democrats at large, but only 48 percent of social media Democrats say political correctness is a problem in America. Fifty-three percent of Democratic social media posters say they have become more liberal over time, versus only 30 percent of other Democrats.

The social media Democrats are not only more “woke” than typical Democrats, they are also more educated (47 percent have a college degree compared with 33 percent of non-posters) and more white (71 percent versus 55 percent). Forty-five percent of those who are active on social media have contributed to a political cause in the past year, compared with only 14 percent of other Democrats.

Candidates who mistake the Twitterverse for the Democratic electorate may be in for a rude shock.

The domination of social media by hyper-partisans is probably one reason why Americans have so many misconceptions about one another. Also, websites like YouTube and cable TV programmers have figured out how to monetize our political preferences by feeding us exactly what they think we want to hear. This leads to intensified polarization.

We’re all familiar with surveys showing that more Americans would be upset if their child brought home a potential spouse of the other party than would object to a fiancé of another race. That’s an arresting finding, suggesting that we’ve made huge progress on one prejudice only to substitute a new one.

Partisans have also misled us. FiveThirtyEight reported on poll results showing what the parties think of one another. Asked to estimate how many Democrats were atheists or agnostics, Republicans guessed 36 percent. The true number is nine percent. Democrats thought 44 percent of Republicans were 65 or older. The correct figure is 21 percent. Republicans thought 46 percent of Democrats were black. The actual number: 24 percent. And Democrats believed that 44 percent of Republicans earn $250K or above. The true share: 2 percent.

There is money and fame to be had for the partisan shriekers — and there is no shortage of those feeding at that trough. But most Americans, 77 percent, remain in what the Hidden Tribes survey dubbed “the exhausted majority.” They still believe that “our differences are not so great that we cannot come together.” Candidates who hope to lead us out of our current slough will keep that in mind.

Published in Politics, Technology
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There are 19 comments.

  1. Coolidge

    Thank goodness! I believed that beforehand but some interesting stats.

    • #1
    • April 11, 2019 at 5:07 pm
    • 4 likes
  2. Member

    Mona Charen: We’re all familiar with surveys showing that more Americans would be upset if their child brought home a potential spouse of the other party than would object to a fiancé of another race.

    Considering the virulent left trends young and a good size of millenials, I wouldn’t drop this concern.

    It sounds like the numbers you gave on social media usage shied away from the age question. Sounds like the older dems (who don’t use social media) are more moderate than the younger cohort. Education is more prevalent in the younger generation.

    Do you think time will alter those numbers?

    • #2
    • April 11, 2019 at 7:43 pm
    • 1 like
  3. Member

    How can only 9% of Democrats be atheists? More than 9% of Americans are atheists, and atheists are certainly more prevalent among Democrats. In fact, most white Democrats seem to be….which obviously skews our perceptions.

    And Democrats thinking 44% of Republicans make $250K is just wacky.

     

    • #3
    • April 11, 2019 at 8:24 pm
    • 3 likes
  4. Contributor

    Twitter is not America. No. But it is changing the parameters of acceptable discourse among some people in the media who use it, because they want to get points from the social mob. In no same time would a reputable newspaper like the Boston Globe publish a piece from a guy who advocates urinating in outgoing DHS Sec’y Gillebrand’s food, but here we are. 

    It appears they’ve removed the piece from the web, because it didn’t “meet their standards,” but whenever that’s applied retroactively you know that it met the standards of many, and that #resistance burns hot in their head 24/7. So the Globe’s op-ed section has double-farged itself – they revealed what they want, and then revealed they are ashamed when their thoughts stand in the light of day.

    But that shame gives way quickly to anger at the people who drove them to this, and anger at the people who do not share their Utterly Correct Evaluations. Twitter will stoke the anger until it fountains out again. 

    • #4
    • April 11, 2019 at 9:37 pm
    • 11 likes
  5. Lincoln

    Clay Travis over on Fox Sports made the point last year that John Skipper and others had taken ESPN’s radio and TV ratings into the dumpster because they had embraced the idea that they needed to program the network to satisfy the demands of angry tweeters, who wanted woke politics mixed into their sports programming. Skipper sacked himself due to cocaine use, and new boss Jimmy Pitaro has spent the past 15 months trying to dig the network out of the hole it put itself into, by steering their main shows back towards focusing on sports, and not on social justice activism, because normal people watch ESPN to get away from politics.

    The Democrats are sort of getting the same political message right now, in that as much as the Twitterverse is telling them their 2020 nominee must check off at least two or more intersectionality boxes, the people doing the best so far in the polls and early fundraising are a trio of white guys, in Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders and now, Pete Buttigieg. A Twitter poll — or one based simply on Twitter noise — would likely put Biden and Buttigieg at the top of the list only on annoying the party’s activists the most, for a variety of reasons (where the gay card for Pete at least for now can’t overcome his white male privilege demerits).

    Democratic donors and poll respondents are telling the party and their media supporters — Stop listening to Twitter!  But a large part of the party, and certainly a large part of the media, is both addicted to Twitter, and addicted to the idea that the loudest, angriest voices of the day win the battles on Twitter. The result is you dive further and further into the sewer while thinking this somehow is a winning strategy (while not comprehending that Donald Trump’s Twitter feed in 2015-19 is simply an extension of the personality he had presented to the public since 1977. It’s baked into the equation with Trump in ways it’s not with the newcomers).

    • #5
    • April 11, 2019 at 10:09 pm
    • 5 likes
  6. Member

    rgbact (View Comment):
    How can only 9% of Democrats be atheists? More than 9% of Americans are atheists, and atheists are certainly more prevalent among Democrats. In fact, most white Democrats seem to be….which obviously skews our perceptions.

    I think there’s a lot of atheists aligning with libertarians, but I found that number rather shocking, too.

    I can throw a rock and hit an agnostic or atheist Democrat.

    • #6
    • April 12, 2019 at 4:46 am
    • 3 likes
  7. Member

    Mona Charen: The social media Democrats are not only more “woke” than typical Democrats, they are also more educated (47 percent have a college degree compared with 33 percent of non-posters)

    I might put this another way: Social media Democrats are more college “indoctrinated.” I’m not so sure how many of them are actually “educated.”

    • #7
    • April 12, 2019 at 5:40 am
    • 7 likes
  8. Member

    Songwriter (View Comment):

    Mona Charen: The social media Democrats are not only more “woke” than typical Democrats, they are also more educated (47 percent have a college degree compared with 33 percent of non-posters)

    I might put this another way: Social media Democrats are more college “indoctrinated.” I’m not so sure how many of them are actually “educated.”

    This is why the statement “not everyone should go to college” makes me nervous. There needs to be politically conservative liberal arts at an economical price. How does it not end badly if you don’t do that? 

    • #8
    • April 12, 2019 at 5:45 am
    • 3 likes
  9. Member

    Mona Charen: The social media Democrats are not only more “woke” than typical Democrats, they are also more educated (47 percent have a college degree compared with 33 percent of non-posters) and more white (71 percent versus 55 percent).

    Not surprised that the woker are whiter, but “degreed” isn’t the same thing as “educated.” I suspect that any measure of intelligence would show them to be dumber.

    • #9
    • April 12, 2019 at 6:14 am
    • 4 likes
  10. Lincoln

    DrewInWisconsin (View Comment):

    Mona Charen: The social media Democrats are not only more “woke” than typical Democrats, they are also more educated (47 percent have a college degree compared with 33 percent of non-posters) and more white (71 percent versus 55 percent).

    Not surprised that the woker are whiter, but “degreed” isn’t the same thing as “educated.” I suspect that any measure of intelligence would show them to be dumber.

    People conflict intelligence with common sense, especially those who spend years getting credentialed at universities, and whose egos make them think diplomas in one subject = intellectual superiority in all.

    • #10
    • April 12, 2019 at 6:39 am
    • 3 likes
  11. Member

    RufusRJones (View Comment):

    Songwriter (View Comment):

    Mona Charen: The social media Democrats are not only more “woke” than typical Democrats, they are also more educated (47 percent have a college degree compared with 33 percent of non-posters)

    I might put this another way: Social media Democrats are more college “indoctrinated.” I’m not so sure how many of them are actually “educated.”

    This is why the statement “not everyone should go to college” makes me nervous. There needs to be politically conservative liberal arts at an economical price. How does it not end badly if you don’t do that?

    I guess you’d be terribly uncomfortable with my thought that “not everyone should go to school past 8th grade” then. But, as composed, I’d prefer we burn the whole education establishment to the ground, urinate on the ashes, salt the ground after it’s cooled…

    There are a handful of liberal arts colleges providing excellent education at a reasonable price: Hillsdale, Grove City, St. John’s(?)… As long as the Left commands the heights of the education establishment, we won’t see other schools rushing to imitate their model.

    • #11
    • April 12, 2019 at 6:46 am
    • 2 likes
  12. Member

    Western Chauvinist (View Comment):
    But, as composed, I’d prefer we burn the whole education establishment to the ground, urinate on the ashes, salt the ground after it’s cooled…

    I am 100% for this.

    What I have in mind is skip the job signaling part and just make it about education. It would be up to you to find a way to make money off of your productivity. If you look at what Renegade History is doing is doing or Liberty Classroom, everything is in place for it. The whole thing needs to be completely atomized. 

    If you aren’t intellectually curious, don’t do it. If everything you want is simply about maximizing your W-2, do something else. I think it could be very cheap and constructive for those that are interested. 

    Nobody ever talks like this, though.

     

    • #12
    • April 12, 2019 at 7:30 am
    • 2 likes
  13. Member

    RufusRJones (View Comment):
    What I have in mind is skip the job signaling part and just make it about education. It would be up to you to find a way to make money off of your productivity.

    Do you listen to Klavan? He’s been at Hillsdale the last couple weeks and interviewed the journalism professor on his latest podcast.

    Hillsdale only allows you to minor in journalism. He talked about one student who wants to report on economics “when she grows up” — so she’s majoring in economics and minoring in journalism. This makes too much sense for the education establishment.

    • #13
    • April 12, 2019 at 7:43 am
    • 4 likes
  14. Member

    Jon1979 (View Comment):
    People conflict intelligence with common sense, especially those who spend years getting credentialed at universities, and whose egos make them think diplomas in one subject = intellectual superiority in all.

    This is most certainly true.

    • #14
    • April 12, 2019 at 7:49 am
    • 1 like
  15. Member

    Accreditation and job signaling are a racket. It’s theft. The whole thing needs to be wiped out. Sell everything alacarte. 

    • #15
    • April 12, 2019 at 8:02 am
    • 1 like
  16. Member

    Songwriter (View Comment):

    Mona Charen: The social media Democrats are not only more “woke” than typical Democrats, they are also more educated (47 percent have a college degree compared with 33 percent of non-posters)

    I might put this another way: Social media Democrats are more college “indoctrinated.” I’m not so sure how many of them are actually “educated.”

    Sadly, I think actual intelligence leads to more wokeness too. These people aren’t all dumb journalism majors. Its part of my theory about virtue signaling being linked to increased prosperity and even intelligence. Quite simply, less well off/less smart people have real problems to worry about. And that leads to the Twitter woke mob.

    • #16
    • April 12, 2019 at 10:36 am
    • 5 likes
  17. Member

    Mona Charen:

    Partisans have also misled us. FiveThirtyEight reported on poll results showing what the parties think of one another. Asked to estimate how many Democrats were atheists or agnostics, Republicans guessed 36 percent. The true number is nine percent.

    I do not believe this. I have seen contrary data, and the source of this claim is not clear. FiveThirtyEight reported on a published study (here), and the study links to data (here), but the questions asked are not clear.

    It is very tricky to poll people on religious questions, and what it means to be an “atheist or agnostic” is difficult to determine. Will someone who is a Wiccan say that they are “atheist or agnostic”? What will someone who has some vague New Age sense of a higher power say? And what will their self-reporting mean?

    Here is some data from a 2014 Pew study:

    13% of Democrats did not believe in God; an additional 3% said they didn’t know. That’s 16% atheist or agnostic. An additional 7% said that they were not too certain or not at all certain. That’s 23%. (The Republican figure is 10%.)

    15% of Democrats said that religion is not at all important in their lives; an additional 1% said they didn’t know, and 13% said it was not too important. That’s 29%. (The Republican figure is 15%.)

    28% of Democrats said that they pray seldom or never; an additional 1% didn’t know. That’s 29%. (The Republican figure is 17%.)

    27% of Democrats said that they do not believe in heaven; an additional 6% didn’t know. That’s 33%. (The Republican figure is 20%.)

    75% of Democrats said that they look to something other than religion most for guidance on right and wrong. (The Republican figure is 56%.)

    None of these is a perfect measure of belief, but all suggest a much higher level of effective atheism/agnosticism than the 9% reported by FiveThirtyEight.

    • #17
    • April 12, 2019 at 11:23 am
    • 3 likes
  18. Member

    Stina (View Comment):

    rgbact (View Comment):
    How can only 9% of Democrats be atheists? More than 9% of Americans are atheists, and atheists are certainly more prevalent among Democrats. In fact, most white Democrats seem to be….which obviously skews our perceptions.

    I think there’s a lot of atheists aligning with libertarians, but I found that number rather shocking, too.

    I can throw a rock and hit an agnostic or atheist Democrat.

    I am an agnostic. I don’t like big government and I don’t like people making babies that take up government welfare. People are corrupt and bad.

    • #18
    • April 12, 2019 at 12:37 pm
    • Like
  19. Member

    Henry Castaigne (View Comment):
    I am an agnostic. I don’t like big government and I don’t like people making babies that take up government welfare.

    The comment was nothing about republicans.

    They still make up a smaller portion of Rs than Ds and Ls.

    I was pointing out the number is very low. I’m not in that liberal an area, nor is it heavily atheist, yet I know 4 in the small world I occupy here.

    • #19
    • April 12, 2019 at 3:47 pm
    • Like