Politically Motivated Conservatives Flee to Parler. Is it a Movement or a Fleeting Moment?

Have you heard the news? Some Facebook and Twitter users planned a mass exodus from the platforms to join Parler. Twitter users are going to Twexit off the platform and more than a dozen Facebook events promoting the exodus are planned, with several dozen more scheduled to take place up until the end of 2020.

What is Parler, you ask? Parler is a new microblogging site launched in 2018 focused on free speech. It claims that it would very rarely censor content, only delete accounts in extreme cases, and won’t flag comments based on fact-checking. Twitter and Facebook both started fact-checking and calling out misinformation this year, which brought the ire of both President Trump and the GOP. And it’s not just U.S. politics that the platforms have cracked down on. Katie Hopkins, a right-wing commentator in the UK had her Twitter account permanently suspended this year for violating Twitter’s “hateful conduct” policy.

However, things started to change last week, so we at Embee decided it was time to take a closer look.

To start, the use of Parler had been largely flat in 2020 – that is, until the US Presidential election took place last week. While new accounts on Parler had surged in late June when Hopkins announced she was moving to the platform, usage of the platform declined and leveled out just a few weeks later. Even though the lead up to the election to the day prior (November 2nd) nothing had really changed – we saw broadly a 0.08% incidence.

Then, on election day itself, Parler usage started rapidly increasing.
Graphic showing Parler usage increasing manyfold in the days after the Presidential election

Who is using Parler?
Embee took a look at Parler usage on Monday, November 9th, and here’s a snapshot of the demographic breakdown of users on that day:

  • Parler usage is predominantly female (61%) compared to male (39%)
  • 45% of users are 45 and over
  • 77% of users are 35 and over
  • 45% are from the Southern Census Area
  • 86% are white
  • 53% are college-educated

parler users by age and gender on 11 Nov 2020
parler users by census region

Does the Behavior of Parler Users Explain Why So Many Polls Were So Wrong?

Embee ran a tracker on its panel in the lead up to the election. In this election tracker, we asked several questions including who they would vote for.

Looking just at people who used Parler on Monday where we know whether they intended to vote for Trump or Biden, 87% said they’d vote for Trump. Embee measures mobile browsing as well as app usage, and we see quite a difference. 74% of mobile browser use of parler.com was from people who said they’d vote for Trump, compared to 93% of those who used the app. A possible explanation is that Democrats are exploring Parler on the web, but only Trump voters are committing by downloading the app.

87% of Parler users were Trump voters overall, but 93% of Parler App users were compared to only 74% of parler.com users on Monday 9th November

So, Parler users are mostly Trump supporters, which allows us to ask whether Parler users were less likely to take our polling survey. If this were true, then it might support the widely touted theory that Trump voters were “too shy” to take surveys. What we see is different: Parler users were actually slightly more likely to take our polling survey than the baseline of the panel. Not shy at all!

Red Parler Users in the Blue States Have Quite a Bit of Company

Interestingly, while the majority of Parler users are in red states where Trump won electoral votes, it’s not by an overwhelming number. 43% of Parler users currently reside in states where Biden won electoral votes.

parler users by winner of users' home state

It’s Time to Sit Back, Watch, and Learn

As interesting as this data is, it may take months, or even years, to see if Parler usage will continue growing and remain consistent, or if it only peaks in moments that are politically driven. We’ll be back with more data that showcases what the initial impact of the Twitter and Facebook exodus to Parler looks like.