The Demographics of Reddit: Who Uses the Site?
Since June of 2005, the social media aggregation site Reddit has been a growing force in the online world. The site was originally created bv two 22-year-old graduates from the University of Virginia, Alexis Ohanian and Steve Huffman, the latter of whom has served as CEO of the site since 2015.
Reddit is a very simple service at its core. There are about 1.2 million communities (as of March 2019), known as “subreddits”, on the site. Each subreddit is organized around a single theme, idea, or topic. For example, one popular subreddit, “r/askreddit” has 22 million subscribers and is a place for redditors (the name for users of the site) to ask one another open-ended questions designed to spark discussion, such as “what should everyone know about driving a car?” or “what’s the best way to end a relationship?” On the other end of the spectrum, there are many niche communities such as “r/rocketlaunches” with 3800 subscribers who post pictures and video of rocket launches.
All of these subreddits are aggregated together in the Reddit front page. A redditor will subscribe to one or more (usually many more) subreddits, and all of those subreddits will display on his or her “front page” when they visit Reddit. Users can sort posts by top (meaning most popular), by new (most recently posted), “hot” (posts trending quickly in the recent time period) and so on. As of late 2018, there were more than 330 million users of the site.
Reddit is similar to any number of bulletin board systems that came before it, from niche sites to once-massive social services. Reddit’s simple design and structure has proven durable; while other aggregators like Digg and Delicious eventually declined in popularity, Reddit has become increasingly dominant in the aggregator space.
So who exactly is using Reddit? What are the demographics of the site that bills itself as “the front page of the internet”? When you’re browsing Reddit, what types of people are you sharing the site with? Who’s using the site, and for what purpose? These are tough questions to answer, especially for a site as big as Reddit. In this article, I have pulled together several different data sources to present an overall picture of who uses the site.
Finding demographic information about redditors is not an easy task. The site is very anonymity-oriented; although some redditors maintain a public profile, most users are just a username and an email address – and other users don’t even have access to the email address. Redditors have the ability to add more information about themselves, such as a short biography and a display name, but not many people take advantage of these features and almost none use them to identify themselves in real life.
The anonymity provided by Reddit has both benefits and drawbacks. Anonymity encourages frank discussion and open conversations. On the flip side, the protections of anonymity lead some redditors to indulge themselves in toxic behavior. Regardless, the site’s anonymity protections mean that most demographic information has to come from outside sources. In this article, I have pulled information and statistics from a variety of external polls and research. You can see the sources I used at the end of the article.
Age and Gender
This might not surprise many readers, but the basic takeaway for both age and gender is simple: the biggest part of Reddit’s audience skews young and male. Pew Research’s 2016 poll found that, though the United States is split 49 percent male to 51 percent female, over two-thirds of Reddit users in the United States skewed male. Reports in September of 2017 citing Statistica found that percentage difference may be as high as 69 percent male, as opposed to the 67 percent Pew Research found. Regardless, it’s safe to assume that the majority of users on Reddit are male, and though both of those statistics use the United States as their polling place, it’s likely similar throughout the rest of the world. Pew also found that people who use Reddit for their news skew even more male, reaching as high as 71 percent.
In the United States, age groups of adults are split up somewhat evenly, with 22 percent of the adult population made up of 18-29 year olds, 34 percent in the 30-49 age range, 25 percent in the 50-64 range, and only 19 percent of adults above the age of 65. Reddit’s community trends much younger. In 2016, the Reddit user base was 64 percent between the ages of 18 and 29, and another 29 percent were between the ages of 30 and 49. Only 6 percent of Reddit users were found to be between the ages of 50 and 64, and just one percent were 65 or older.
In 2016, four percent of United States-based adults reported using Reddit to Pew Research, who themselves found that six percent of adults used the website in 2013 (this was likely based on a more international polling effort than the 2016 statistics, because the latter focused primarily on how United States citizens were getting their news from Reddit). Reddit themselves have stated that 54 percent of their audience comes from the United States as of January 2017. Looking at Alexa.com, which Mediakix used for their own report, we can see that number is up to 58.4 percent of users based in the United States, with the United Kingdom ranked second at just 7.4 percent, Canada ranked at 6.3 percent, Australia at 3.1 percent, and German coming in at number 5 with 2.1 percent.
Keep in mind these numbers likely come from IP addresses, which means the actual percentages are undoubtedly skewed through the use of VPNs. This could mean that users in countries with heavy amounts of censorship, like Russia and China (where Reddit has been previously blocked), could be using the platform under different IP addresses, presenting themselves online as being located in countries like the United States. Ultimately, it probably doesn’t impact the overall numbers very much—the takeaway here should be that at least half of Reddit’s users are based in the United States.
Finally, following the location of Reddit’s users, we also need to discuss the ethnicity of the site’s base. Once again using the Pew Research poll from 2016, we can determine that, unlike age and gender, Reddit’s audience actually follows the trends of the US population fairly closely. In the United States, white non-Hispanic adults made up 65 percent of the population, with black non-Hispanic making up 12 percent, Hispanic making up 15 percent, and other non-Hispanic making up 8 percent. From the Pew Research poll, we can see Reddit’s user base is primarily white non-Hispanic, coming in at 70 percent of Reddit’s users in the United States. Black non-Hispanic users are at 7 percent of Reddit’s base in the US, Hispanic users at 12 percent, and other non-Hispanic at 11 percent total.
Overall, these numbers follow the United States general population fairly closely, with an increase in white non-Hispanic users and other non-Hispanic users, and a decrease in Hispanic and black non-Hispanic users. Obviously, this only goes to show the ethnic background of the US audience for Reddit, which does subtract a good percentage of Reddit’s own users. Still, there’s no widely available information on the ethnicity of Reddit’s non-US based users, so for now, this is the best we have to go off. If that changes in the future, we’ll update the post accordingly.
With those four statistics out of the way, we can focus a little more closely on some of the less concrete details of users. In addition to looking at the time spent on the site and what devices were used to access Reddit, I also wanted to look at the politics, religious beliefs, education, and the general income level of Reddit’s users. Finally, I took a look at what Redditors use the site for, and what type of content is most popular on the site.
Time Spent on the Site
This is a pretty simple one, actually. Nearly every source I checked gave us the same basic answer: around fifteen minutes total. Alexa’s website ranking had Reddit listed at the daily time on the site for 15:50 total. Reddit’s own site for advertisement information had their time per session listed as 14+ minutes, which is a bit different from daily time, but seems to line up with most users visiting Reddit once a day and browsing their favorite subreddits for new content.
It’s also worth noting that the majority of users on Reddit either never post or rarely post, instead choosing to browse or “lurk” on their favorite networks. This is similar to any website with a commenting system, though it’s likely that Reddit has a higher ratio of active users to lurking users. Finally, it’s also safe to assume that small-but-dedicated communities that are geared towards passionate fan bases likely see even higher ratios than more popular subreddits, thanks to the feeling of close-knit communities these smaller groups can inspire.
Operating System Choice
Reddit’s own users ran a poll of their site at the end of 2016 which has an entry field for listing which operating system people use to view Reddit on a regular basis. For a website largely made up of younger nerds, the results weren’t too surprising: Windows led with nearly 36 percent. Android was right behind, coming in second with 31 percent of users, followed by iOS, MacOS, and Linux in that order. For the most part, that makes sense; Windows and Android are the two most popular operating systems in use currently, with iOS and MacOS typically seen in third place (the numbers for those two platforms are counted together, but iOS devices massively outweigh MacOS devices in terms of popularity) and Linux distros behind Apple’s software.
It’s worth noting, however, that though this poll lists Windows as the most popular operating system, roughly 40 percent of Reddit’s visitors access the website through their mobile app. It’s likely that this doesn’t include third-party apps, of which there are a number on iOS and Android, which means the actual percentage of mobile users may be even higher than this implies.
Several of the sources used for this information all pointed in the same general direction of an answer: the majority of Reddit users have either some college education or a degree, with the smallest group of users having only a high school degree. The young age of Reddit’s audience means that they’re more likely to go to college for advanced learning than previous generations, but it also means that plenty of Reddit’s users are actually still in high school or college. Reddit itself does not have an age check when you sign up for an account, as I detailed above, but it does require users to be at least 13 when using the site, due to the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act.
To sum up, Reddit’s audience is fairly well-educated, typically either in possession of a college degree, working towards a college degree, or still in high school. The high level of college education on the site may have some influence on the next several categories listed below.
Pulling from the same Pew Research poll we’ve been using throughout this guide, we can see that US-based Redditors tend to be of all different income levels, spread out on all three levels measured by Pew almost evenly. At the lowest end of the poll, we have Reddit users making less than $30,000 per year. 30 percent of Reddit users fell under this bracket in 2016, compared to 21 percent of American adults. In the next bracket, $30,000-$74,999, we find 34 percent of Redditors, nearly even with the findings in American adults, 35 percent. Finally, at the top of this chart, we have $75,000 or above. Obviously, this includes the most amount of possibilities, which may account for it being the highest percentage at 35 percent. This is actually quite a bit lower than the percentage of all American adults in this bracket, which sits at 44 percent.
There are a few takeaways here. First, the higher percentage of Reddit users making less than $30k in income every year makes sense when you combine that knowledge with what we know about the age of Reddit’s community. If Reddit’s user base skews younger, and includes a lot of users still in high school or college (often lacking full-time annual employment), it could explain why the percentage of lower-income users is higher than the average percentage in the United States. That said, the higher percentage of college-educated users on Reddit as opposed to the national average also explains why the percentage of users making $75k or more remains fairly high. If a fair portion of Reddit’s audience hold college degrees, that increases the likelihood of better paying jobs.
Overall, the average income on Reddit is roughly what you would expect from a young, male-majority audience: split between all three brackets fairly evenly.
One of the most surprising aspects of Reddit’s demographics is its readers’ political leanings. Reddit has garnered a lot of attention from the press since the heyday of the 2016 election for several notable subreddits related to politics, but none of them were or are more contentious than “r/the_donald,” a subreddit centered around the politics of then-candidate Donald Trump, with 726,000 subscribers as of March 2019. For most of its existence, Reddit has made it clear that they support free speech and allow their platform to be used to discuss any topic. In recent years, under the leadership of Huffman, Reddit has strengthened its terms of service, specifically around the issues of bullying and harassment, which has caused certain specific subreddits to be shutdown. One of the most controversial of these subreddits was r/Pizzagate, a spinoff subreddit from r/the_donald that surrounded a conspiracy theory following the 2016 election. While r/pizzagate was removed from Reddit’s service, the subreddit it originated from—r/the_donald—is still active and creating news today.
The controversy around that conspiracy theory, and the followers of r/the_donald, might lead you to believe that Reddit as a service leans to the right—or, at the very least, offers breeding grounds for Republican and conservative views to flourish. In the case of the latter, it’s true. There’s no shortage of Republican and right-leaning subreddits on the platform, including r/Republican and r/Republicans, r/Conservative, r/CollegeRepublicans, and r/ModerateRepublicans. But there are subreddits for all sorts of political leanings, including communities for libertarianism, socialism, democratic socialism, the Democratic party, communism, and even some outliers, like anarchy and the American Pirate Party, which pushes for copyright law reform.
Basically, this is a long-winded way to say that Reddit is a community that reflects what you bring to it. It’s a platform designed to be tweaked and twisted into what you want, whether that be something that directly challenges or opposes views you hold close and dear, or to serve as an echo chamber and a way to expand your knowledge on views you might already hold.
Statistically, it’s difficult to prove what leanings readers on Reddit might hold when signing up for the platform. Pew Research’s poll in 2016 showed that Reddit’s user base skewed to the left, with 43 percent of their poll takers defining themselves as liberal, 38 percent describing themselves as moderate, and only 19 percent of Reddit users calling themselves conservative. That said, February 2016 was relatively early in the life-cycle of the popular r/the_donald subreddit, which is now considered one of the most active communities on the platform and has more than half a million subscribers. In our research, I could find no other subreddit that managed to be as popular as r/the_donald on either side of the aisle, with the Democrats subreddit holding at 90,200 subscribers and the r/conservative subreddit at 202,000. Of course, not everyone who has a specific right or left political leaning will subscribe to a political subreddit—plenty of people use the platform as a way to have a fun time online, to gather news, or just to follow media they enjoy.
Ultimately, the numbers from Pew Research two years ago have probably slimmed a bit, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Reddit’s entire user base leans left overall. When the entire audience of a website is young and mostly college-educated, overall statistics show that it’s likely that the audience on Reddit will skew Democrat.
To be straightforward, it’s difficult to determine the religious affiliation of Reddit’s user base. Unlike political leanings, the religious beliefs of Reddit’s users hasn’t been polled in any substantial way, which means all we have to go on here is the subscriber count of various religious subreddits. Reddit is somewhat well-known around the internet for attracting a large percentage of atheists to its community, and indeed, comparing the Christianity subreddit (Christianity, of course, being the dominant religion in the United States, where more than half of Reddit’s users are based) to the atheism subreddit shows a noticeable margin between the two communities. The atheism subreddit is the 56th most popular subreddit on the platform, with more than 2.1 million subscribers, while the most popular Christianity subreddit, r/Christianity, sits around 182,000 subscribers.
Of course, subscriber count doesn’t necessarily mean there aren’t plenty of Christian users on Reddit—it just means that the atheism community is incredibly active on Reddit. And indeed, comparing the two communities, there’s a noticeable difference in what is posted on each board. The majority of posts on r/Christianity seem to relate directly to either talking about faith, debating aspects and meanings of the Bible, or sharing news stories on Christianity (for example, “Bible Downloads Banned in China”).
Not to disparage the r/atheism community, but their posts aren’t quite as deep. While there are certainly some discussions that dive deep into the ideas behind atheism and the lack of belief in any sort of higher power, a lot of the content on r/atheism is based on posts around religion, including ultra-religious people doing questionable acts and popular posts like “the response to the suggestion of superior design should be to pick your nose.” Again, if that’s the content you’re into, more power to you. It just goes to show that the two communities are doing very different things with their time.
Other subreddits based on major world religions have even fewer members. r/Islam has around 68,500 subscribers, despite being the second most-popular religion in the world. Hinduism, the fourth largest religion, only has 45,900 subscribers on its subreddit. Buddhism is actually fairly popular on the site, clocking in at 170,000 subscribers. Judaism, meanwhile, has 29,700 subscribers.
Again, it’s difficult to really draw a line between subscriber count and their actual beliefs, since no one requires you to subscribe to the religious subreddit of your choice just because it matches your own personal views. What we can do, however, is look at the age of most Reddit users—they’re mostly younger men—and the political leanings we discussed above to match those factors with the overall religious beliefs of millennials. Pew Research has found that younger millennials are still overwhelmingly Christian at 56 percent, but the percentage of agnostic, atheist, or otherwise non-particular beliefs has ballooned to 36 percent. It’s fair to say these statistics probably align fairly closely with Reddit, but again, it’s difficult to put an exact number on any of the religious beliefs of Reddit’s user base.
Finally, we can discuss some of the most popular subreddits on Reddit, not just to show off the top subreddits on the list, but to show what Redditors are looking to use the site for. The most-subscribed subreddit, for example, is r/announcements, which mostly serves as a way for Reddit to announce upcoming changes to the service, including policy changes, new rules, and information on site redesigns. Of course, that doesn’t show a good example of what people actually use the site for, so instead, it’s important to note what most users actually follow in a day to day fashion.
The most popular subreddit after r/announcements is r/funny, with almost 19 million subscribers. r/Funny is based entirely around jokes and other content designed to make people laugh and smile. There are plenty of unfunny posts in the subreddit, but all content is at least an attempt at humor (and if you browse the main page, you’ll likely have no issue finding the majority of the content to be at least a bit humorous). The third-most popular subreddit, r/askreddit, is basically a modern Yahoo Answers but with an actual discussion.
Other popular content includes r/todayilearned, which features posts surrounding the facts that people may have unexpectedly come to understand; r/science; r/worldnews, which focuses on a global news perspective instead of just a US-based news perspective; r/pics; and r/IAmA, one of Reddit’s most famous (for good) subreddits in which prominent people from all sorts of fields and backgrounds come to Reddit to answer user-submitted questions.
Some notable subreddits from the top fifty subreddits include:
Every subreddit mentioned above has between 12 and 20 million subscribers, with gaming the most successful of that list and history still managing to slowly creep up on hitting 13 million. But what should the takeaway here be?
First, for all the controversy that surrounds a subreddit like r/the_donald, anyone interested in understanding the audience of Reddit should understand that even the most popular controversial subreddits are relatively meaningless in the grand scheme of things. For every one person who is subscribed to r/the_donald, 36 people subscribe to something like r/gaming or r/funny.
Second, the most popular, most successful subreddits are generally inoffensive. Looking over the top 100 subreddits on the platform, it’s nearly impossible to find something truly offensive to the general public. Even subreddits like r/nsfw, which features pictures that are (as it says on the label) not safe for work or r/sex are clearly marked as content not safe for minors (in fact, if you don’t have a Reddit account, you need to accept a prompt before viewing any of the content on those communities). Truly horrendous content simply doesn’t tend to blow up on the site, staying mostly quiet in the background and, if it does blow up into a controversy, often getting banned by Reddit themselves (see: r/deepfakes, r/jailbait).
Finally, the main takeaway is this: Reddit is what users make of it, and Redditors tend to flock toward the content they’re either already interested in, or content they want to learn more about. If someone is really into gaming, they’ll likely follow r/gaming, plus the subreddits of their favorite consoles (like r/ps4, r/nintendoswitch, or r/pcgaming), and maybe some deals subreddits (r/ps4deals or r/nintendoswitchdeals). Someone interested in movies or music or books will follow similar patterns, and obviously everyone will mix and match their favorite communities as they build a portfolio of what they find interesting. If anything, the top subreddit list proves that, no matter what the background of an individual person, people use Reddit to follow what they like, be it media, news, history, the opportunity to learn, or anything else.
It’s important to remember that these statistics are only as good as the data behind them, and unfortunately, Reddit themselves have not released a massive amount of information on who their audience is to the general public (we’d assume, of course, that advertisers do have additional data here). Much of the information above was pulled from a Pew Research poll conducted in 2016 on Redditors and, more specifically, people who gather their news on Reddit. I also used information from an updated Pew poll about news use in 2018, and another 2018 Pew poll about the use of online sites by teenagers. I also gathered information from Reddit’s own Audience and Demographics page on their Reddit help site, and used a Redditor-made poll to gather information on what devices and operating systems people are using. Alexa’s site ranking was used to determine the popularity of Reddit itself.
Mediakix’s own gatherings on Reddit demographics helped us to check the statistics provided by some of the above charts for a second source. An older Pew Research data survey from 2013 was briefly used to cite how many people used Reddit in 2013. We used Redditmetrics’ top list to gather information on the most popular subreddits on the platform, and gained information on the controversial and banned subreddits from Wikipedia’s own article outlining them (and the sources provided through Wikipedia). Information on the religious leanings of younger millennials was pulled from Pew Research as well. This SurveyMonkey source on Reddit app data was consulted. Finally, Statistica was used briefly as a second source for the male vs. female percentages of Reddit’s users.
Ultimately, I think these findings paint a solid picture of what the demographics of Reddit are, painting a picture of a younger, majority white and male audience with access to higher education. That said, it’s also obvious that Reddit has plenty of diversity within its subreddit communities. There is no “one” Reddit, the way there is for Facebook or Instagram. People use Reddit for a multitude of reasons, from news to entertainment to saving cash. There’s no one reason to sign up for Reddit, and though the numbers point in the direction of a younger, male-focused audience, there are plenty of communities within Reddit created specifically to target women and people of color, giving them a voice on “the front page of the internet.”
Do you use Reddit? If so, you should check out our tutorial on Chrome extensions for Reddit and our suggestions for the best Reddit clients for iPhone. Like the weird stuff? Be sure to read our guide to the most bizarre subreddits. If your Reddit habit has gotten out of hand and you need to blow up your account, you’ll want to read our guides on erasing all of your Reddit posts and/or erasing all of your Reddit comments.
Do you have any insight on the demographics of Reddit? Be sure to share them with us in the comments!