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Exclusive poll: America sours on social media giants

Data: SurveyMonkey poll conducted Nov. 9 to 13 among 3,622 U.S. adults with a modeled error estimate of ±2.5 percent; Survey methodology. Chart: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

Silicon Valley has a big and growing problem: Americans have rising concerns with its most popular products and a growing majority wants big social media companies regulated, according to new poll conducted by Survey Monkey for “Axios on HBO.”

Why it matters: The public is more aware than ever of some of the negative consequences of the technologies that have changed their lives, which makes Silicon Valley and social media ripe political and regulatory targets.

Between the lines: This is a rare topic uniting Republicans, Democrats and Independents.

  • Republicans have been alleging that these companies — often founded and still led by idealistic, progressive executives — censor conservative viewpoints.
  • Democrats have taken issue over the past year with ways social media technologies, like niche ad-targeting, can be abused by people to discriminate against minorities.

By the numbers: In the past year, there has been a 15-point spike in the number of people who fear the federal government won’t do enough to regulate big tech companies — with 55% now sharing this concern.

  • In that same period, there was a 14-point increase in those who feel technology has hurt democracy and free speech.
  • The biggest spike has been among Republicans, presumably because of increased concern about perceived censorship of conservative voices on social media.

The bigger picture: A number of issues that have risen over the past year have caused Americans to recognize the negative consequences of technology more than they have before.

Yes, but: About 40% of Americans still feel that social media is a net positive for society. Overall, 65% of people say smartphones have made their quality of life better.

Be smart: Unlike most conversations about government regulation, this is not an obscure topic for most Americans. An overwhelming majority use — and perhaps over-use — the technologies in question.

  • Nearly two-thirds (63%) of respondents say they sleep with their phone in or next to their bed. And that jumps to 73% among millennials.
  • More than half (51%) say smartphones are the hardest technology for most people to live without. And that jumps to 67% among millennials.

The bottom line: Americans are more aware than ever before about the dark side of technologies, which should worry Silicon Valley.

Go deeper:

Methodology: This analysis is based on a SurveyMonkey online poll conducted among adults ages 18 and older in the United States. Respondents were selected from the more than 2 million people who take surveys on the SurveyMonkey platform each day. Data have been weighted for age, race, sex, education, and geography using the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey to reflect the demographic composition of the United States age 18 and over. The first survey was conducted November 9-13, 2018 among 3,622 adults. The modeled error estimate  for the full sample is plus or minus 2.5 percentage points and full crosstabs are available here.

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