The Slatest

Study: White People Talk About Race on Social Media Way Less Than Black People

Supporters of the Black Lives Matter movement stand during remarks from the Mothers of the Movement at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia on July 26.

Joe Raedle/Getty Images

A new study released by Pew Research on Monday showed that there is a stark divide in how white Americans and black Americans talk about race on social media. Specifically, black Americans talk about race on social media and white Americans don’t nearly as much.

The study, which surveyed 3,769 adults between Feb. 29 and May 8 and analyzed 995 million tweets about race from Jan. 1, 2015, to March 31, 2016, found that black social media users are twice as likely as white users to say that posts they see on social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter are about race or race relations. While 68 percent of black social media users report seeing at least some race-focused content on their feeds, only 35 percent of white users do and 54 percent of Hispanic users do.

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Meanwhile, 28 percent of black users say they share posts about race and race relations while only 8 percent of white users do the same. The number for Hispanic users is in between the two at 20 percent.

The study also analyzed nearly 1 billion racially focused tweets and determined that the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag was used 12 million times between July 2013 when it first appeared and the end of March of this year. The #BlackLivesMatter tweets were largely supportive of the movement, the study found, with 40 percent of the tweets expressing solidarity and 11 percent of the tweets criticizing it.

Pew also did a separate analysis from July 5–17, 2016, that looked at tweets in the aftermath of the shooting deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile by police officers and the attacks that killed nine police officers in Dallas and three officers in Baton Rouge. It found that, in marked contrast to the rest of the survey, 33 percent of the tweets using #BlackLivesMatter during this period criticized it, three times as many as during the previously analyzed time frame. Following the Dallas attack specifically, 39 percent of #BlackLivesMatter tweets opposed the movement compared with 28 percent in support and 33 percent neutral.

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The presidential election was also one of the major sources of conversation around race, the study found, with much of that focused on the racially charged campaign of Donald Trump.

Of the nearly 1 billion tweets that dealt with race, 10 percent of those Tweets were about the 2016 campaign and “Republican candidate Donald Trump was the subject of many of these.”

“Issues related to the police or judicial system made up an additional 7 [percent] of the conversation surrounding race,” Pew also reports, while “[discussions] of race in the context of pop culture events accounted for 7 percent of the overall Twitter conversation around race.”

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