Few Americans Think That Social Platforms Care About Their Users

November 9, 2017

This article is included in these additional categories:

Demographics & Audiences | Digital | Household Income | Industries | Social Media | Technology | Youth & Gen X

There’s a pervasive feeling of skepticism about social platforms’ positive role in the world and attitudes towards their users, per results from a recent Harvard-Harris Poll [pdf]. Just 13% of the more than 2,000 registered voters surveyed said they trust the information and news they encounter on social media, while fully 41% said they have no trust at all in such information.

The results come as social media platforms are grilled in front of Congress about their role in Russian meddling in the US election.

The results are also concerning in light of recent Pew Research Center data indicating that almost half of Americans at least sometimes get their news from social media. In fact, more than one-quarter (26%) now get news from multiple social media sites, up from 15% in 2013.

The Harvard/Harris poll suggests that they’re not relying exclusively on these sources, though: 71% claim to verify information and news from social media through other sources.

Do Social Platforms Care About Their Users?

The common adage is that when services are free, the customer is the product. But how much do social platforms care about their users?

There seems to be a great degree of skepticism in this area, too. Only around 1 in 4 respondents asked this about Facebook said that the social media giant cares about its users. Far more (38%) disagreed with the statement.

In terms of demographic groups, 18-34-year-olds were the most trusting of Facebook caring about its users (39%), while higher-income respondents (22%) were less trusting than those making less than $75k per year (32%).

Twitter fared even worse: just 17% feel that it cares about its users, more than doubled by the share (45%) who feel that it doesn’t.

Voters are more split on LinkedIn: while only 18% agree that it cares about its users, disagreement was limited to an equal 18% with most neutral. Unlike with Facebook, higher-income users are a little more trusting than average of LinkedIn on this measure.

Interestingly enough, voters are more enthusiastic about Google and its platforms:

  • 43% agree that Google cares about its users, compared to 26% who disagree; and
  • 30% agree that YouTube cares about its users, versus 24% who disagree.

New research from The Verge likewise finds that Americans are generally more favorable towards Google than they are to Facebook and Twitter. Just 29% of respondents to that survey said they trust Facebook.

Research released earlier this year found only 13% of American adults strongly agreeing that they trust the social networks they use.

Social Platforms: Good for the World?

A similar pattern emerged when voters were asked about these tech giants’ impact on the world. Respondents were most likely to agree that Google (58%) is good for the world, with almost half (47%) feeling the same way about YouTube.

By comparison, fewer agree that Facebook (32%), LinkedIn (24%) and Twitter (20%) are good for the world.

About the Data: The results are based on a survey conducted by The Harris Poll in October 2017 among 2,159 registered voters. The results reflect a nationally representative sample. Results were weighted for age within gender, region, race/ethnicity, marital status, household size, income, employment, political party, political affiliation, and education where necessary to align them with their actual proportions in the population.


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