Social Media Seen as Mostly Good for Democracy Across Many Nations, But U.S. is a Major Outlier

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As more and more people use Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, and other platforms to share their thoughts and obtain news, the social media space has emerged as a new forum for public discussion of political and social issues, often resulting in acrimonious arguments. Furthermore, a lot of analysts believe that social media is a big part of the reason why democracy is deteriorating globally.But as a recent Pew Research Center survey of 19 advanced economies reveals, the majority of people think social media has improved democracy overall and see it as both a helpful and a harmful part of political life. A median of 57% of the countries surveyed believe social media has been more

and the majority think that it has, on the whole, improved democracy. A median of 57% of the countries surveyed believe social media has had a positive impact on democracy, while 35% believe the opposite.

However, there are significant national variations on this issue, with the US standing out as an obvious outlier: Just 34% of American adults believe social media has improved democracy, while 64% believe it has had the opposite effect. Indeed, the United States stands out in a number of ways, with a greater proportion of citizens perceiving social media as polarizing.

Across Many Nations, But U.S. is a Major Outlier

Even in nations where opinions on social media’s benefits are generally favorable, the majority still think it has had some negative consequences, most notably dividing and manipulating societies. Across the 19 countries polled, a median of 84% of respondents felt that social media and internet access had made it simpler to spread rumors and false information to people. According to a recent analysis of the same survey, the dissemination of false information online is viewed as a major threat by a median of 70% of the 19 countries, ranking second only to climate change on a list of global threats.

Furthermore, a median of 65% believe it has increased political division among the populace. More than four out of ten claim it has made people’s political discourse less civil, while only roughly a quarter say it has improved civility.

So what’s to like given the manipulation, division, and lack of civility in the online world? How can democracy benefit from this contentious sea of misinformation? The fact that it empowers people at a time when few people feel empowered could contribute to the explanation. Nearly all of the countries surveyed have majorities who claim that their political systems prevent people like them from having any influence in politics. Seven out of ten people in nine countries—including the United States—express that opinion.

People may feel less helpless in a few ways with the aid of online platforms. Social media informs them first. According to a recent Pew Research Center study, the majority of people in these nations think that being informed about both local and global events is essential to being a good citizen. It is also evident that people think social media and the internet make it simpler to stay informed. Almost 75% of respondents claim that social media and the internet have increased people’s awareness of current events both domestically and internationally. These opinions are particularly common among young adults.

Across Many Nations, But U.S. is a Major Outlier

Additionally, the majority of respondents believe social media is a useful instrument for achieving political objectives. The majority of people in the majority of nations believe it is at least somewhat successful in influencing policy decisions, changing people’s perceptions of issues, and bringing issues to the attention of elected officials.

Social media serves as a platform for expression for some people. In South Korea, as an illustrationApproximately 50% of social media users report posting or sharing content about political or social issues on a regular or occasional basis. Posting about these topics is less common in the other nations surveyed, though, with four out of ten or more saying they never post about social or political topics in twelve of them. These are some of the main conclusions from a Pew Research Center survey that was completed by 24,525 adults from 19 different countries between February 14 and June 3, 2022.

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