Mar 31, 2021 - Technology

Exclusive poll: Both parties blame social media for Capitol siege

Data: Harris Poll; Chart: Danielle Alberti/Axios

Republicans and Democrats overwhelmingly agree on one thing: Social media had at least some responsibility for the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, according to new survey data from Harris Insights shared exclusively with Axios.

Why it matters: 71% of Republicans and 77% of Democrats say social media platforms bear responsibility for the Jan. 6 events — a stark sign of the growing animosity toward them from both sides of the aisle.

The big picture: The survey was conducted in the days following last week's House hearing featuring the CEOs of Google, Facebook and Twitter.

  • By and large, Americans were not aware of the hearing. But among those that did pay attention or had heard about the hearing, Democrats were significantly more likely than Republicans to come away from it with a more positive opinion of the tech CEOs (59% vs 35%).

Context: The insurrection occurred after President Trump told his supporters in a tweet to head to the Capitol. Participants organized in Facebook groups and posted videos on YouTube and Instagram.

  • Twitter permanently banned Trump's account from the platform, and YouTube and Facebook indefinitely suspended his accounts. Facebook's oversight board is expected to release its decision on Trump's appeal of the ban as soon as this week.

The majority of Americans (58%) agree that Twitter and Facebook should still bar Trump from their platforms.

  • But there's a partisan divide: 82% of Democrats agree with the decision while 27% of Republicans do. Meanwhile, 55% of independents agree.
  • Still, some cognitive dissonance exists: 57% support Facebook and Twitter allowing Trump to be reinstated.

Where it stands: Two-thirds of Republicans (64%) say social media makes us even more divided, with a little more than a third (36%) saying social media just reflects existing divisions.

  • It's flipped for Democrats, 41% of whom say social media divides us and 59% saying it merely reflects existing divisions.
  • There's also a generational divide: 60% of baby boomers say social media makes us even more divided, compared to 43% of millennials.

When asked what the government should do about Big Tech, respondents' answers largely fell along party lines.

  • Republicans are significantly more likely than Democrats to support Big Tech being "broken up" (52% vs 45%),
  • Three-fifths (60%) of respondents support the federal government creating a new agency to oversee social media and other online companies.
  • 69% of Democrats support such government oversight, compared to 49% of Republicans.
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