Want to find all the big political discussions that are taking place on the Internet? For the most part, they don't exist, according to data released earlier this month by Quantcast -- a service that tracks the demographics of Internet users.
In the aggregate, social media users are younger, more liberal ... and less politically engaged than the general populace. Facebook is the closest thing we have to a neutral and all-inclusive public forum -- and that's only because so many people are on it that the overall politics and demographics of the platform are a wash.
But looking at the demographics of all people using a social media service kind of misses the point. In fact, these services host many different groups who often use them in very productive ways (journalists on Twitter, for example). At this point, looking at the demographics of social media site is kind of like looking at the demographics of people who have mailboxes; you can learn a lot more from digging into what people are receiving in them than the fact that they have an address.
Regardless, it is kind of fun to look at how politics function on these different sites.
Here are a few scenes from the front.
Pinterest is one of the most conservative social networking sites -- something that was already established by a Harvard Institute of Politics study of young adults from earlier this year. In 2012, Gawker called Pinterest "the most inoffensive, white-bread place on the internet, a gated community of perfectly curated boards sprinkled with Etsy-made children's toys and food blog recipes, sheltered from the blasted racist hellscape of the rest of the web."
This photo posted by Ann Romney is what all posts on Pinterest aspire to be.
Quantcast also found that Pinterest users were wealthier and older than the users of other major social-media platforms. Since the site gathers those who want their apartments to look like the unrealistic living spaces in sitcoms, this is not surprising.
Twitter, on the other hand, leans the furthest left and features far more active political creatures than Pinterest. Quantcast found that Twitter users were the one exception to the rule that social media users tend to pay attention to politics far less than most Americans. The Harvard Institute of Politics study also found that Twitter users are more likely to be Democrats.
Depending on your political beliefs, you might agree wholeheartedly with the data ... or think that those who conducted the report are out of their mind. Partisans on Twitter are very good at talking about politics in an echo chamber. A Pew Research Center study from earlier this year showed that liberals and conservatives use different hashtags when talking about politics -- and link to different news sources too. These two groups don't often cross paths.
Bing and Yahoo!
The partisan breakdown of search engines makes a whole lot of sense, after you stop and realize that you don't know anyone who uses Bing or Yahoo! except for your grandma. Since older Americans are more likely to be conservative -- and more likely to vote -- of course Bing and Yahoo! would be among the more politically active and more conservative major Web sites. However, the auto-complete options on these search engines seems to not share this excitement about politics.
If anything, Yahoo! hates politics even more, and thinks even less of the Democrats who don't seem to be using their services.
Disqus is a commenting system used by many Web sites, including Bloomberg, The Atlantic and Politico. It makes sense that Internet commenters are a politically active bunch; anyone who gets upset about a listicle of animals who look like senators or is personally waging a war against campaign reporters who always use the wrong homonym is likely passionate enough to cast a ballot or send a letter to their representative.
Or, as Quantcast puts it: "It appears that commenting on articles online may be a good indicator for voting at the polls."
One of the least politically active social platforms is Twitch, a Web site recently purchased by Amazon for $970 million. It is a streaming video service that lets users watch people play video games. (Yes, that's a thing.)
The reason why you have never heard of Twitch and why Twitch users have never heard of any of the people in the U.S. Senate is self-explanatory.
Quantcast's study found that Instagram is one of the most lefty social platforms. However, many conservative politicians are trying to change this, one filter at a time. The photos below involve a lot of normcore and beards, so you know they really want to make this work.