According to a recent survey, a significant percentage of respondents (30%) are either worried or angry about Musk’s move to take over Twitter. Of that group, the majority said they plan on leaving the social platform if the Musk takeover bid goes through. Not all Twitter users are negative about the acquisition – 38% are neutral and 32% are excited.
These findings are the result of an Invisibly survey of 500 Americans concerning Elon Musk’s acquisition of Twitter.
From April 29th to May 6th, we used a Realtime Research survey to canvas Americans about Elon Musk’s bid to acquire Twitter. We asked people how they felt about Musk’s move to acquire the platform, if it would affect their usage of Twitter, how the changing of ownership would affect disinformation, and more. The full list of questions are listed below:
Invisibly Realtime Research differs from traditional online surveys in that the questions are shown to people on web pages in place of an ad (Figure 1). Realtime Research surveys are optional, thus ensuring that participants are responding voluntarily.
Figure 1. An example of the 300×250 Realtime Research survey unit. Questions are shown to the user on web pages in place of an ad.
Of the respondents without a Twitter account, 86% say they are not more likely to sign up if Elon Musk acquires Twitter (Figure 2A). Of people who do have a Twitter account, respondents are more likely to be neutral to Elon Musk taking over (Figure 2B). However, of the people who claimed to be worried or angry about Musk’s acquisition of Twitter, 57% claim they plan to leave Twitter if Elon Musk acquires it (Figure 2C).
Figure 2. Americans’ opinions on Elon Musk’s acquisition of Twitter. A. Non-Twitter user’s likelihood of signing up after an acquisition by Musk. B. Twitter users are more likely to be neutral towards Musk’s acquisition. C. Majority of respondents who reported to be worried or angry about an acquisition by Musk claim they will leave Twitter if Musk acquires the company.
The majority of all respondents feel that Twitter currently censors free speech (Figure 3A) while the majority of respondents who claimed to be worried or angry about Musk acquiring the company are more likely to feel that Twitter does not currently censor free speech (Figure 3B). Interestingly, the majority of people think Donald Trump will have his account unbanned, and 47% of all respondents think the former President will rejoin the platform. 31% believe he will not rejoin Twitter even if he is permitted to come back (Figure 3C).
Figure 3. Americans’ opinions on free speech on Twitter and Donald Trump’s account status. A. Majority of respondents feel that Twitter currently censors free speech. B. Respondents who are worried or angry about the acquisition think Twitter does not censor free speech. C. People are more likely to think that Donald Trump’s Twitter account will be reinstated and he will return to the platform than not.
Respondents are more likely to say that misinformation on Twitter will remain the same if Elon Musk acquires the company (38%), while the remainder were split on if there will be more or less misinformation (Figure 4A). However, respondents who are worried or angry at Musk’s potential acquisition believe there will be more misinformation if his bid is successful (Figure 4B). Those same respondents are also more likely than the average respondent to support the formation of the Disinformation Governance Board; however, the majority of all respondents still support this (Figure 4C, 4D).
Figure 4. Americans’ opinions about disinformation on Twitter. A. Americans are more likely to feel that misinformation on Twitter will stay the same after Musk takes over than there being more or less misinformation B. Those who are angry or worried about Musk’s acquisition of Twitter feel that there will be more disinformation with Musk in charge. C. Majority of respondents are in favor of the formation of the disinformation governance board. D. Those who are angry or worried about Musk’s acquisition of Twitter are more likely than the average respondent to favor the Disinformation Governance Board.
This study shows that there has been a strong public reaction to Elon Musk’s acquisition of Twitter. The realization of the acquisition would seem to have little influence in convincing non-Twitter users to join the platform and holds limited sway over existing Twitter user’s emotions. However, for those who do feel angry or worried about the acquisition, their feelings are strong enough that they are considering a departure from the platform in the future. While this study does not confirm reasons why any of these respondents are worried or angry, one common reaction among people who have publicly expressed concern are fears that Musk’s purchase will move the United States closer to an oligarchy in which the ultra wealthy control all the major media and communication platforms. Some see Musk’s intent to purchase Twitter as a power move, rather than a move to defend free speech as Musk himself has intimated.
Despite Musk’s message regarding the protection of free speech, the majority of respondents who claim to be worried or angry about the acquisition do not feel that Twitter currently censors free speech – directly opposite of Musk’s opinion (Figure 3B). In addition, these respondents are more likely to think that with Elon Musk in charge, there will be more disinformation on the platform (Figure 4B). This may explain why they are also more likely than the average respondent to favor the implementation of a Disinformation Governance Board – which was proposed last month as part of the Department of Homeland Security (Figure 4D).
Musk pointed out in a tweet that Trump Media’s new social platform, Truth Social, was performing better than other popular apps in the iOS App Store. He also stated that Truth Social’s existence was purely because Twitter censored free speech – referring to the ban on President Trump’s Twitter account after the January 6th capitol riots. The debate lies in that Musk sees looser restrictions on Twitter as a solution that could keep everyone on one platform and stop a large population from being siloed into any particular feed or app like Truth Social, which in turn could further political polarization. On the other hand, those opposed to Musk’s takeover feel that disinformation on Twitter is a more important issue to deal with, that the company’s chosen restrictions are appropriate and just, and loosening them would perpetuate disinformation and potentially political polarization.
Invisibly Realtime Research surveys differ from traditional online surveys in that the questions are shown to the user on web pages in place of an ad. Unlike Google Surveys, which block access to content until the questions are answered, Realtime Research surveys are optional, thus ensuring that participants are responding voluntarily.
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