Overall, 16% of registered voters follow candidates for office, political parties, or elected officials on a social networking site, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted during the lead-up to the 2014 midterm election. That is a 10 percentage point increase from the 2010 midterms, when only 6% of registered voters did so.
It’s not just the youngest voters getting in on the act. The increase is even more substantial among registered voters ages 30 to 49, more than tripling from 6% to 21% during this time period.
Voters increasingly cite breaking news as a major reason why they follow political figures on social media. Among registered voters who follow political figures on social media, 41% say that finding out political news before others is a “major reason” why they do so. In 2010, just 22% cited this as a key reason.
Some voters who connect with political figures on social media say they do so to bypass traditional journalism — 26% say that the information they get via a politician’s social networking site is more reliable than what they get from traditional news organizations. These figures are mostly unchanged since 2010.
Another 35% of registered voters who use social media to follow a political candidate say a major reason is that it makes them feel more personally connected to politician or group.