Is Twitter just a tool for the chattering classes? It seems so. A new Prospect/YouGov poll reveals that the belief of Twitter users in civil liberties is the most important factor distinguishing them from the general public. British users showed liberal inclinations in October, by breaking a court injunction banning the Guardian from naming mining company Trafigura. They then turned on Daily Mail writer Jan Moir for ill-judged remarks on the death of gay pop star Stephen Gately, and Sunday Times critic AA Gill for shooting a baboon on safari.
Such actions are part of a broader trend. Our poll shows that while 57 per cent of Britons think greater police powers to tackle terrorism are more important than protecting civil liberties, less than half of Twitter users agree. Fifty-six per cent of the public agree that “the greatest victims of discrimination in Britain these days are often ordinary white men,” compared to only 45 per cent of Twitter users. And on a relative scale constructed from our poll data (see graphic above) Twitter users are among the most liberal groups in Britain.
The survey also confirms Twitter’s image as a tool for a youthful metropolitan elite; 46 per cent of users are younger than 35, compared to 29 per cent of the population, and they are more likely to live in London.
In other ways Twitter users are less unusual, with similar gender, social class and political affiliation to the public. Twitterers were only slightly less likely to vote Conservative (38 per cent) than the population as a whole (41 per cent). And they were no more likely to be optimistic about the future than the rest of us.
Prospect also asked which historical figures people would have followed on Twitter. Traditional icons fared well—Churchill (34 per cent), Jesus (30 per cent) and Darwin (28 per cent) topped the list. Churchill was most popular among Tories, men and the over-35s, while Jesus came first among Labour voters and Scots. Famous female figures like Elizabeth I (17 per cent) and Joan of Arc (8 per cent) did less well.
But where Twitter users and the rest of the country most disagree, perhaps unsurprisingly, is over the service itself. Twitter users think the service is worthwhile, but 76 per cent of the population give the idea a thumbs-down, saying they have never used it and do not intend to…