Instagram is Gen Z's go-to source of political news - and it's already having an impact on the 2020 election
- Gen Z's go-to source for political news is Instagram.
- About 65% of respondents told Business Insider they checked Instagram daily, with many Gen Zers citing it as a major source for political news specifically.
- Some people in their teens and early twenties are worried that their generation's reliance on social media is perpetuating political division.
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Gen Z's front-page news is being found on their Instagram feed.
In 2019, social-media use is a given across all generations. But more than half of the young people whom Business Insider surveyed in a recent national poll said they checked Snap, YouTube, and/or Instagram daily.
Social media is the top way that Gen Z finds out about what's going on in the world, with 59% of respondents listing it as a top news source in Business Insider's poll of 1,884 people between the ages of 13 and 21. The national poll was conducted with SurveyMonkey Audience partner Cint on behalf of Business Insider. It ran January 11-14.
Instagram reigns supreme. About 65% of respondents said they checked it daily, with many Gen Zers citing it as a major source for political news specifically.
Older Americans may be confused by the reliance on Instagram. But, the range of political meme accounts, personalities, and more straightforward news publications mean that the social media platform can provide an endless stream of content.
News clips and articles are posted alongside memes on accounts like the pro-Trump @trump_making_us_great and the progressive @the19thdc. Accounts such as the anti-Trump @stump-president-trump and @conservative__americans repost content from other platforms, including Twitter, Tumblr, and Facebook.
These memes exist alongside the accounts of actual politicians, such as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, one of the left's biggest social-media stars. Ocasio-Cortez frequently speaks to her followers directly via Instagram Live, covering topics from urban gardening to migrant detention centers. Now, 2020 presidential candidates are attempting to follow her lead, attempting to appear authentic with their own Instagram Live sessions.
Read more: 2020 Democratic contenders are following Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's lead by turning to Instagram Live to reach voters
Social media's polarizing force
The endless content can have consequences. Gen Zers who spoke with Business Insider felt that the generation's reliance on social media was polarizing, as algorithms connect conservatives with more right-leaning content and liberals with more left-leaning posts.
"Social media has the ability to take out a snippet of an entire presidential speech that somebody gave and give you 30 seconds to two minutes that can completely sway somebody's opinion on that candidate," Katy Foster, 21, a right-leaning college student in South Dakota, said.
"There's no time for most people in Generation Z," she added. "You're just being so caught up with everything. Especially being a college student, I don't have time to watch an hour-long debate. I will be swayed, honestly, by a two-minute video, which is sad to say."
While roughly half of the respondents to Business Insider's survey did not label themselves as either liberal or conservative, the remaining Gen Zers we polled were almost evenly split between the right and the left.
"There definitely is animosity between the two sides, in terms of people my age," Charlie Ciporin, an 18-year-old from Connecticut, said. "I do think that there is a pretty big political divide."
Going into the 2020 election, Instagram is set to become a major stage for debate. With cable-news divisions playing out on a new platform and presidential candidates flocking to Instagram, the platform will be under the microscope as Gen Z gears up for most of its members' first presidential election.
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