Half of U.S. adults think that the Internet does more to help than hurt democracy, but only 32% believe that social-media sites like Facebook and Twitter do so (38% say social media hurts democracy, and 30% say it has no impact). As one respondent said, “With the internet becoming more readily available in the world, more people are exposed to the vast quantities of information found online. Social media allows ideas to both proliferate and spread for better or for worse but that’s the essence of a free and democratic society. It’s as decent or as deplorable as we are.”

Asked to describe Facebook in one word, 6% said “social”, 5% “fun”, and 4% “connect” or “connection”. These positive sentiments aside, Facebook was the social-media brand with the biggest negatives: 30% had negative views, compared to 25% for Twitter and just 5% for YouTube. Despite these negatives, 60% visit Facebook at least once a day. Only 26% were very or completely satisfied with Facebook, compared to 24% for LinkedIn (scoring lowest) and 52% for Pinterest and 55% for WhatsApp (scoring highest).

What drives overall satisfaction with a social-media site? Security features have the highest correlation to the overall rating (40% of shared variance), followed by the website (38%) and privacy settings (38%). The ability to connect to people you know was lowest (30%).

The majority of Americans visit Facebook more than any other social-media site (51%), followed by YouTube (18%), Instagram (9%), and Twitter (5%). Only 17% of 18- to 24-year-olds visited Facebook most often, compared to 65% of seniors (65+); Instagram (owned by Facebook) does best with young adults (visited more than any other site by 31%, compared to just 1% of seniors). Twitter is used the most by 12% of 45- to 54-year-olds, and under 5% for any other age group older than 24.

Respondents gave their reasons for which site they visit the most. Some viewpoints from those who visit Facebook the most:

  • “My family and friends are on there. I use Facebook to keep up with what is going on in their lives. Especially the people I do not get to see often.”
  • “I have no idea. I suppose it is to see pictures of my friends and family. It is more focused on friends and family instead of my career.”
  • “Facebook is my main news source, so I go there often to see if any new articles have been posted. I also like videos of cute animals.”

For more on this survey of 1,000 U.S. adults, please check out the slides and general methodology.

Author Notes:

Jeffrey Henning

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Jeffrey Henning, IPC is a professionally certified researcher and has personally conducted over 1,400 survey research projects. Jeffrey is a member of the Insights Association and the American Association of Public Opinion Researchers. In 2012, he was the inaugural winner of the MRA’s Impact award, which “recognizes an industry professional, team or organization that has demonstrated tremendous vision, leadership, and innovation, within the past year, that has led to advances in the marketing research profession.” In 2022, the Insights Association named him an IPC Laureate. Before founding Researchscape in 2012, Jeffrey co-founded Perseus Development Corporation in 1993, which introduced the first web-survey software, and Vovici in 2006, which pioneered the enterprise-feedback management category. A 35-year veteran of the research industry, he began his career as an industry analyst for an Inc. 500 research firm.