About half of Americans use social media to follow news about COVID-19 vaccines
Amid debates about the role of social media in spreading misinformation related to COVID-19 vaccines, about half of Americans say they get some (30%) or much (18%) news and information about these vaccines have on social media. The other half (51%) say they didn’t receive much or no messages this way, according to a new poll from the Pew Research Center conducted July 26 through August. 8, 2021.
Given the focus on social media’s role as a source of information (or misinformation) about COVID-19 vaccines, the Pew Research Center surveyed between July 26 and August 8, 2021 to evaluate how important these platforms were to Americans to receive news about the coronavirus pandemic. Everyone who took the survey is a member of the center’s American Trends Panel (ATP), an online polling panel recruited through national random samples of residential addresses. This way, almost all US adults have a chance of choice. The poll is weighted to be representative of the adult US population by gender, race, ethnicity, party affiliation, education, and other categories. Read more about the methodology of ATP. Here are the questions that were used for this analysis, along with the answers and methodology.
This is the latest report in the Pew Research Center’s ongoing survey of the State of News, Information and Journalism in the Digital Age, a research program funded by The Pew Charitable Trusts with generous support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.
While about half of adults in the US get some or a lot of vaccine news on social media, only 6% find it the most important way and 33% say it’s important but not the most important way. For the majority of Americans (60%), social media isn’t an important way to stay up-to-date with news about COVID-19 vaccines. That includes the 31% who don’t get vaccination information at all on social media.
The percentage of Americans who say social media is a major source of COVID-19 vaccine news is increasing among those who regularly check for news on social media platforms.
Of the 53% of Americans who say they regularly receive messages from at least one of the 10 social media sites surveyed, nearly three-quarters say they have received a lot (30%) or some (43%) of the news and information about COVID-19 vaccines on social media. And about six in ten of this group (61%) say social media is an important way to stay up to date with news about COVID-19 vaccines, although only 11% say it is the most important way.
If you look at individual social media sites, the vast majority of Americans who receive regular news from every site get at least some vaccine news on social media, and many get a lot. About four in ten Americans who regularly receive messages on Snapchat (39%) and Instagram (40%) say they have received a lot of vaccine-related news and information on social media. The same goes for about a third of Americans who regularly receive updates on Twitter, Facebook, and TikTok. Almost three in ten of those who regularly get updates on LinkedIn, YouTube, and Reddit say they get a lot of news about COVID-19 vaccines on social media. For two of the sites surveyed – WhatsApp and Twitch – not enough Americans rely on news to individually analyze their answers to these questions.
Three-quarters or more of Americans who regularly check Snapchat (79%), TikTok (77%), and Instagram (75%) for news, say social media is an important way to learn about news about COVID -19 vaccines to stay up to date. All in all, 60% or more of Americans who regularly receive messages from each of the eight individually analyzed websites say social media is an important way to keep up with that news.
The ultimate reach of COVID-19 vaccine information on social media is also influenced by the percentage of Americans who use each website for news. For example, while 31% of Americans say they turn to Facebook for messages, only 4% turn to Snapchat for messages.
In terms of demographics, younger Americans and women are more likely than older Americans to get better or related to the fact that these people are primarily more likely to use social media for messaging.
Note: Here are the questions that were used for this analysis, along with the answers and methodology.
Amy Mitchell is the director of journalism research at the Pew Research Center. Jacob Liedke is a research fellow with a focus on journalism and media at the Pew Research Center.