Recent Pew Internet research indicates that adults over the age of 50 are one of the fastest-growing cohorts when it comes to using social networking sites, and in 2010 older users took to these sites in relatively large numbers to get involved in the political debate. Fully 33% of social networking site users over the age of 50 used these sites during election season to get political news, post political content, get engaged with a candidate or cause, or discover who their friends voted for—that is only slightly less than the 42% of profile owners ages 18-29 who did so.
To be sure, young adults overall are much more likely than their elders to use social networking sites (three-quarters of 18-29 year olds use these sites, compared with one-quarter of those 50 and older), so the use of social networking sites for political purposes is more widespread within the young adult population. However, to the extent that people are users of social networking websites they are increasingly likely to use those sites for political purposes—regardless of their age.
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Looking more deeply at the individual political social networking activities we measured, the main difference between young and old social network users pertains to using the sites to discover who one’s friends voted for in the most recent election—social network users ages 18-29 were roughly twice as likely to do this as those ages 50 and older. This is most likely due to how many more young adults use social networking sites; the more of your friends are on these sites, the more likely you are to know someone who publicized who they voted for. Young social network users are also somewhat more likely than older users to post political content on these sites, although for the other activities in our survey there no major differences between young and old social networking site users.