The numbers are in and Disruptor in Chief Elon Musk is definitely having an impact on Twitter, but probably not the type he’d hoped for.
Newly released brand favorability and trust data from Morning Consult shows a massive backlash, particularly among Democrats, to Twitter in the weeks after the billionaire officially took over. That steep fall off in favorability and trust are likely driving some users, and advertisers, away from the site, which Musk assures you, isn’t actually a rapidly devolving hellscape.
Twitter’s net favorability among Democrats in 2022 dipped from net plus 20.4 percentage points in January to -3.2 in November, with the vast majority of those declines occurring after Musk took over in October. Net trust, meanwhile among Democrats shot down 29.3 points during the same time. Graphs illustrating both the measurements, which generally trended down most of the year save some brief recoveries, suddenly resembled the world’s steepest ski slope come October.
Morning Consult says these sudden shifts represent the most significant month-over-month shift in opinion among Democrats since they began tracking the brand in January 2017.
Conversely, those brand declines among Democrats translated to slight gains for Republican users. Republican net favorability of Twitter has increased 9.7 points in 2022, while trust ticked up 7.7 points. Those gains come on the heels of Musk’s repeated claims that he would reduce content moderation and welcome back banned accounts. Hell, Musk even told users to go out and vote Red in the midterms.
There goes the neighborhood
Musk’s polarizing effect on Twitter and his chaotic management has left its most important users, advertisers, unsure how to respond. Major brands including General Motors, United Airlines, and Pfizer all reportedly paused advertising on the platform. Interpublic Group, one of the largest advertising firms in the world, reportedly recommended clients of its IPG Media Brands agencies lay off paid advertising on Twitter, according to CNBC. The frenzied rollout, and subsequent backtracking of broken new features and a sudden proliferation of fake accounts has even led some companies like luxury brand Balenciaga to deactivate their Twitter accounts altogether.
Those dramatic withdraws forced Musk to move into damage control and basically beg advertisers to stick it out on the platform. Before anyone gives him too much praise though, it’s worth noting that that seeming moment of clarity arrived just days after the CEO threatened to craft a “thermonuclear name and shame,” list of companies pulling their ads from the site.
But advertisers aren’t the only one’s getting cold feet: some prominent celebrities are jumping ship too. As of this week, “Gray’s Anatomy” creator Shonda Rhimes, The View co-host Whoopi Goldberg, musician Toni Braxton, and model Gigi Hadid all either deactivated their accounts or expressed interest in leaving the site in the days after Musk gained control over Twitter.
“I’m gonna get out,” Goldberg said on The View. “If it [Twitter] settles down and I feel more comfortable maybe I’ll come back but as of tonight I’m done with Twitter.”
On the flip side, Musk’s Twitter saga appears to have benefited some prominent Republican and conservative users on the site. Back in April, when Musk finalized a deal to acquire Twitter, influential conservative accounts reportedly saw their follower counts shoot up at rates ten times higher than normal, according to statistics analyzed by The Verge.
Follower counts for prominent conservative accounts increased following Musk’s recent takeover as well. Trump-backed Arizona governor candidate Kari Lake reportedly gained 18,000 followers in the 24 hours after Musk took the helm, according to Memetica data viewed by The New York Times. Far right political commentator Candace Owens reportedly gained over 3,700 new followers during that same time period, an increase 300% above her normal follower gains. Fox News, Donald Trump Jr, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, and The Babylon Bee amassed some of the biggest followers gains in the immediate aftermath of Musk’s takeover. Prominent Democratic accounts, like those of Kamala Harris and Barack Obama, meanwhile witnessed some of the largest follower losses on the platform.