Online comment sections provide a space for the public to interact with news, to express their opinions, and to learn about others’ views. To date, little is known about the populations that inhabit online comment sections. Who comments online and why? Who reads online comments? And what does the public think about best practices for this space? In this report, we use a nationally representative sample of commenters and comment readers to describe the demographic makeup, attitudes, and behaviors of the people who comprise the online commenting world.
Some noteworthy findings include:
- 55% of Americans have left an online comment and 77.9% have read the comments at some point.
- Of those who have left a comment, 77.9% have done so via social media.
- Just over half (50.7%) of Americans do not read news comments or leave comments on news sites.
- Of those who leave news comments, 53.2% said they comment on news monthly or less frequently, and of those who read comments, 59.0% said that they do so a few times a month or less.
- Americans who leave news comments, who read news comments, and who do neither are demographically distinct. News commenters are more male, have lower levels of education, and have lower incomes compared to those who read news comments.
- News commenters and comment readers most commonly name United States politics or domestic policy as the types of stories on which they comment or read comments.
- 56% of those who comment on news say they do so to express an opinion, particularly when the topic is United States politics or domestic policy.