in Data & Insights

Instagram Is Where to Find Democrats Online, But Don’t Expect Them to Vote

Instagram users are more likely to be Democrats than the average American. Twitter users are more likely to be politically active. It turns out that where people spend time online says a surprising amount about their political behavior. We recently examined the political affiliations and political engagement of audiences of select online platforms and found some unexpected results.

Source: Flickr / ThinkOutLoud

Social Media: A Clean Well-Lighted Place … for Democrats

Let’s start with the most basic measure of political interest in the US: party affiliation. We weren’t surprised to see that on most platforms we examined, users lean more Democrat than Republican. This is in line with the broader demographics among U.S. social media users — generally younger and typically living in major urban centers.

  • Users of most major social platforms are not politically active compared to the US population; Twitter users are the one exception.
  • Facebook, reflecting its ubiquity, is in line with the general U.S. population in representation for both political parties and political engagement.
  • Social media is not lost for Republicans — Pinterest users have higher Republican representation than the general population and are the most Republican-leaning of social media platforms we examined. Not surprisingly, Pinterest’s audience is also one of the oldest and wealthiest among major social platforms.
  • Examining the search engines, Yahoo and Bing both have higher Republican representation than average, which might be expected given their older audience compared to Google.

One other interesting result: Disqus, the online commenting platform, skews very high for political engagement. It appears that commenting on articles online may be a good indicator for voting at the polls.

More Techies Identify As Independent

According to Gallup, the number of Americans identifying as Independent is at an all-time high, reaching 46% in the fourth quarter of last year. It turns out that platforms which typically attract more techie audiences, such as Reddit, garner even higher Independent representation than average.

  • Twitch, the popular social gaming site, and Reddit have audiences that seek to stay out of the popular political system, indexing heavily as Independent in addition to being politically inactive.
  • Users of DuckDuckGo, the privacy-focused search engine, also lean strongly Independent. However, they are politically active.

What Aggregate-Level Data Doesn’t Reveal

While it may be convenient to politically characterize users of these online platforms in aggregate, the reality is that most of these platforms include users from across the political spectrum. Political marketers, who often employ very sophisticated targeting, know to look beyond the surface to find the audiences they need. Pinterest is a case in point. While its users may lean Republican as a whole, a quick search finds pins appealing to Democrat and Republican audiences both well-represented. When approaching online platforms, political marketers can divvy up audiences — no gerrymandering required.

Notes on Methodology

We calculated this political demographic data the same way we calculate all of our demographic profiles. We directly collect anonymous web browsing data through the millions of publishers and networks who use Quantcast Measure and have placed our pixel on their properties. We combine this with reference data from anonymous users who have voluntarily provided information about their political engagement and affiliation, allowing our statistical models to accurately infer the political demographics of a property’s audience in aggregate.

For this study, we specifically looked at the browsing habits of over 114 million anonymous US users who had been referred from one of these social platforms to a property with our Measure pixel implemented in August 2014. For more information on our political demographics data, see our recent product announcement.

Posted by Nick Binder, Product Marketing Manager, and Akshay Patil, Modeling Scientist