Elon Musk Has Made X More Right-Leaning, Study Shows

(Bloomberg) -- Elon Musk’s X, the social media site formerly known as Twitter, has become more popular with conservative users and those who identify with the political right since Musk’s takeover in late 2022, according to a new Pew Research Center report.

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The percentage of Republican users who think X is “mostly good” for American democracy has more than tripled since Musk purchased the site in October 2022. The year before Musk’s takeover, in 2021, only 17% of users who identified as Republicans believed the site was good for democracy. Now, after Musk has platformed and amplified right-leaning leaders and viewpoints, that figure has jumped to 53%, according to a Pew Research Center survey of more than 10,200 US adults conducted in March of this year and released on Wednesday.

Across the aisle, feelings have moved in the other direction. In 2021, 47% of Democrats surveyed said they thought Twitter was mostly good for democracy. Now, more than 18 months after Musk’s takeover, just 26% of Democratic users think X is good for democracy.

Musk has turned X into a site where Republican viewpoints are more widely accepted, and where right-leaning users report significantly less harassment than their liberal counterparts. More than half of Republicans who post about politics on X believe their views “feel welcome,” compared to just a third of Democrats, according to the report. Left-leaning users are also more than three times as likely to say harassment is a “major problem” on X.

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When Musk purchased Twitter in 2022, he was openly critical of the network’s left-leaning employee base and reputation. He posted publicly about his desire to support free speech and create an open town square where all voices could be heard, not just the “far far left San Francisco views” that he claimed dominated the site.

Since then, the mercurial billionaire has courted and platformed conservative and right-wing politicians around the world, including reversing a ban on former President Donald Trump, and has spread conspiracy theories and amplified extremist views. He has coupled those efforts with regular attacks on President Joe Biden, whom he has called “a grim puppet” for the Democratic party.

It’s a combination that has made X a much more attractive and welcome place for political conservatives, especially in the US. The Pew Research Center report comes just five months ahead of the 2024 US Presidential election, where social media sites, including X, have historically played a prominent role. Political conversations on X have been a key part of the service for over a decade, and X has played a central role in the Arab Spring uprising, Donald Trump’s 2020 presidential campaign and the Israel-Hamas war, among other events. Nearly 75% of users on X said they come across political content as they browse the site, according to Pew.

While social media is regularly used by politicians to reach voters, other social network CEOs like Meta Platforms Inc.’s Mark Zuckerberg have attempted to hide their political viewpoints, refusing to publicly promote or endorse a specific candidate. While Musk has not yet endorsed Trump, he’s been very public about his political leanings and his intention to push X toward the right.

The X owner, who has more than 187 million followers, has shared and commented on posts that espouse views considered conservative, including some that criticize immigration, spread anti-trans narratives and discredit diversity, equity and inclusion policies.

Republican politicians are leaning into this change at X. In May of last year, for example, Musk hosted Florida Governor Ron DeSantis as he announced his 2024 presidential campaign on X – the first event of its kind on social media. This year, X will also host a town hall event with Trump ahead of the election. Biden, who was also invited to participate in a town hall on X, declined.

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