The number of people using Twitter in the US has decreased almost 9% since Elon Musk took over, according to a recent study. In October 2022, just before Musk took ownership, the study found, 32.4% of Americans were using Twitter. In December and January, that figure had dropped to 29.5%.
The survey of nearly 25,000 Americans was conducted by the COVID States Project, a joint research initiative by Northeastern University, Harvard University, Rutgers University, and Northwestern University that publishes reports on epidemiology, public opinion polling, and social science.
The drop in users was mostly from Democrats, who quit Twitter at higher rates than independents or Republicans. Thirty-eight percent of those identifying as Democrats used Twitter in October, but that had dropped to 32.9% by January. The change in Republicans and independent users was statistically insignificant, the study found.
David Lazer, professor of political science and computer science at Northeastern University and part of the consortium of academics who organized the study, told BuzzFeed News that he was surprised by the survey findings. “I would have expected Democrats to have dropped their utilization of Twitter because Musk has said some very partisan things,” he said. “The fact that it wasn’t matched by an upsurge of Republicans is notable.”
Although Musk has described himself as an independent, he has tweeted things that align him with the right (such as a conspiracy theory about the attack on Paul Pelosi), interacted with far-right accounts like Libs of TikTok, restored the accounts of notable far-right personalities like Andrew Anglin and Laura Loomer, and bemoaned the existence of a “woke mind virus.”
Lazer told BuzzFeed News that the survey would have a bias toward people who have social media accounts, since the poll itself was conducted online. (Pew Research, for instance, has found that only around 23% of people in the US say they use Twitter.)
The study also looked at sentiment about both Twitter and Musk’s trustworthiness, as well as the platform’s perceived bias. Unsurprisingly, people who identified as Democrats were less trusting of Musk. Forty-eight percent said they do not trust him “at all” to do what’s right, and another 28% said they trusted him “not too much.”
Trust in Twitter was never high, but it went up among Republicans after Musk took over as CEO. Previously, Democrats were more likely to trust that Twitter would do what’s right compared to Republicans, but as trust in Democrats sank and trust among Republicans rose, they met in the middle: both at 34%.
Twitter, which reportedly does not have a press relations department anymore, did not respond to a request for comment.