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Mar 20th, 2023

HPU Poll: North Carolinians Have Mixed Feelings About Social Media

While most people in North Carolina use social media, their feelings differ on its advantages and disadvantages.

HIGH POINT, N.C., March 20, 2023 – A new High Point University Poll finds nearly half of North Carolina residents think the internet has been a good thing, but were less positive about the impact of social media.

Only one in five (21%) respondents said that social media had been a good thing. Almost half (45%) said social media had been both good and bad. About one-third (29%) said social media applications have been a bad thing.

Advantages of Social Media

Forty-three percent of North Carolinians said the internet is mostly a good thing, compared to 11% who said it is a bad thing. Meanwhile, an additional 42% said the internet had been some of both (a good thing and a bad thing).

The HPU Poll also asked about cyber bullying on social media where more than half (55%) of North Carolinian social media users said they have seen someone try to intimidate another person online socially or physically.

More than a majority (83%) of people polled in North Carolina said they use social media like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok or Snapchat.

Nearly half (47%) of those social media users said they either strongly agree or agree that people who are being bullied on social media should just unplug, while only one-quarter (24%) said they strongly disagree or disagree. About one-third (30%) of social media users said they either strongly agree or agree they have felt a reduced sense of self-worth due to things that have been said to them on social media, while almost half (46%) said they strongly disagree or disagree that their self-worth had been reduced by social media content.

The poll also asked North Carolinians about their experiences online or on their cellphones. About two in five (41%) North Carolinians said that someone had sent them explicit images they did not ask for, and slightly fewer than that (38%) had been called offensive names.  Less than a third of them said someone had spread false rumors about them (29%), had constantly asked them where they were, who they were with, or what they were doing (28%), physically threatened them (24%), or shared explicit images of them without their consent (21%).

When asked how well different groups were performing to address online harassment and bullying, two in five (40%) said teachers and parents were doing either an excellent or good job. Lower percentages of North Carolinians said law enforcement (35%), other users who witness bad online behavior (34%), social media sites (26%) and elected officials (23%) were doing an excellent or good job addressing online harassment and bullying.

“Cyberbullying is potentially more damaging than physical bullying because the bullying messages can live in perpetuity—and because the mechanism of the bullying moves with the victim,” said Dr. Ginny McDermott, dean of the Nido R. Qubein School of Communication. “If someone if physically bullied, they can seek safety. But if someone is experiencing cyberbullying, where can they go? Unplugging is not a simple solution since our lives are so connected to our online activity. It’s important to educate children and teenagers about safe and responsible social media use to help prevent bullying and other online risks.”

NC residents – Advantages of the Internet (March 2023)

Overall, when you add up all the advantages and disadvantages of the internet, would you say the internet has been mostly a good thing or a bad thing?

Good thing – 43%

Bad thing – 11%

Some of both – 42%

Unsure – 4%

NC residents – Advantages of social media (March 2023)

 What about online social media? When you add up all the advantages and disadvantages of social media applications, would you say social media has been mostly a good thing or a bad thing?

Good thing – 21%

Bad thing – 29%

Some of both – 45%

Unsure – 5%

NC residents – Social media use (March 2023)

Do you use social media like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, or Snapchat?

Yes 83%

No 18%

NC residents – Social media bullying (March 2023)

 Have you ever seen someone try to socially or physically intimidate another person through the use of social media? [Asked of those that said yes to using social media, n=830]

Yes – 55%

No – 34%

Unsure – 9%

Prefer not to respond – 2%

 NC residents – Social media opinions (March 2023)

Please tell me to what extent you agree or disagree with each of the following statements. Would you say you strongly agree, agree, neither agree nor disagree, disagree or strongly disagree? [Items presented in a random order] [Asked of those that said yes to using social media, n=830]
Strongly agree Agree Neither agree nor disagree Disagree Strongly disagree Unsure
People who are being bullied on social media should just unplug. 23 24 25 14 10 5
I have felt a reduced sense of self-worth due to things that have been said to me on social media. 14 16 21 18 28 3

NC residents – Personal Bullying (March 2023)

Still thinking about your experiences online or on your cell phone, which of the following if any has ever happened to you personally? [Items presented in a random order]
Yes No
Had someone send you explicit images you did not ask for 41 59
Been called offensive names 38 62
Had someone spread false rumors about you 29 72
Had someone other than a parent constantly ask you where you were, who you were with, or what you were doing 28 72
Been physically threatened 24 76
Had someone share explicit images of you without your consent 21 79

 NC residents – Addressing Bullying (March 2023)

As far as you know, how good a job are each of the following groups doing when it comes to addressing online harassment and bullying? Would you say excellent, good, only fair or poor? [Items presented in a random order]
Excellent Good Only fair Poor Unsure
Teachers 16 24 26 18 16
Parents 13 27 28 14 18
Law enforcement 11 24 26 21 19
Other users who witness behavior 11 23 25 24 18
Social media sites 10 16 28 33 14
Elected officials 8 15 27 34 17

The most recent HPU Poll of 1,010 respondents was fielded by the High Point University Survey Research Center on Feb. 27 through March 4, as an online survey using a panel of respondents recruited and maintained by Dynata. Dynata sent invitations to its panel of N.C. respondents and the SRC collected responses on its Qualtrics platform. The SRC did all data analysis. The online sample is from a panel of respondents, and their participation does not adhere to usual assumptions associated with random selection. Therefore, it is not appropriate to assign a classic margin of sampling error for the results. In this case, the SRC provides a credibility interval of plus or minus 3.4 percentage points to account for a traditional 95% confidence interval for the estimates (plus or minus 3.1 percentage points) and a design effect of 1.2 (based on the weighting). The data is weighed toward population estimates for age, gender, race/ethnicity and education based on U.S. Census numbers for North Carolina. Factors such as question wording and other methodological choices in conducting survey research can introduce additional errors into the findings of opinion polls.

Further results and methodological details from the most recent survey and past surveys can be found at the Survey Research Center website. The materials online include past press releases as well as memos summarizing the findings (including approval ratings) for each poll since 2010.

The HPU Poll reports methodological details in accordance with the standards set out by AAPOR’s Transparency Initiative, and the HPU Survey Research Center is a Charter Member of the Initiative.

You can follow the HPU Poll on Twitter.

Dr. Martin Kifer, chair and associate professor of political science, serves as the director of the HPU Poll, and Brian McDonald is the associate director of the HPU Poll.