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Who tweets in the United Kingdom? Profiling the Twitter population using the British Social Attitudes Survey 2015

Sloan, Luke ORCID: 2017. Who tweets in the United Kingdom? Profiling the Twitter population using the British Social Attitudes Survey 2015. Social Media and Society 3 (1) , pp. 1-11. 10.1177/2056305117698981

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The headache any researcher faces while using Twitter data for social scientific analysis is that we do not know who tweets. In this article, we report on results from the British Social Attitudes Survey (BSA) 2015 on Twitter use. We focus on associations between using Twitter and three demographic characteristics—age, sex, and class (defined here as National Statistics Socio- Economic Classification [NS-SEC]). In addition to this, we compare findings from BSA 2015, treated as ground truth (known characteristics), with previous attempts to map the demographic nature of UK Twitter users using computational methods resulting in demographic proxies. Where appropriate, the datasets are compared with UK Census 2011 data to illustrate that Twitter users are not representative of the wider population. We find that there are a disproportionate number of male Twitter users, in relation to both the Census 2011 and previous proxy estimates; that Twitter users are predominantly young, but there are more older users than previously estimated; and that there are strong class effects associated with Twitter use.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Social Sciences (Includes Criminology and Education)
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Twitter, social media, demographics, representation, British Social Attitudes
Additional Information: This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License ( which permits any use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access page (
Publisher: SAGE
ISSN: 2056-3051
Funders: ESRC
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 22 March 2017
Date of Acceptance: 9 February 2017
Last Modified: 02 May 2023 17:25

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