Oct 31, 2017

Majority of Americans are wary of regulating big tech

Calls to regulate technology platforms like Google and Facebook aren't likely to result in new regulations anytime soon — and that's fine by a narrow majority of people who say they are concerned the government will go too far, according to an Axios/SurveyMonkey poll.

Data: SurveyMonkey poll conducted from Oct. 23 to Oct. 26. Poll data. Poll methodology; Chart: Axios Visuals

The backdrop: Top lawyers for Google, Facebook and Twitter will appear before a Senate subcommittee today to be grilled about how Russian actors used their platforms to target U.S. voters with divisive messages ahead of the 2016 presidential election. And some politicians on the left and right are calling for more scrutiny of the largest tech platforms as their power grows.

Bottom line: For all the ominous talk, a Republican Congress isn't going to clamp down too harshly on the tech companies, outside of the possibility of requiring new disclosures for paid political ads on their platforms. At least for now. That means that the congressional hearings over the next two days are mostly for show and to create some headaches for companies whose executives often avoid Capitol Hill appearances.

Additional stats:

  • 73% of respondents identifying as "very conservative Republicans" are worried about government overreach, compared to just 32% of those who identify as "very liberal Democrats."
  • 65% of very liberal Democrats say the government won't do enough to regulate how U.S. tech companies operate, while only 27% of very conservative Republicans feel that way.
  • Voters in both Trump states and Clinton states responded remarkably similarly, however: 53% of Trump state voters and 50% of Clinton state voters said they worry the government will go too far in restricting how U.S. tech companies operate.
  • 51% of all respondents say the government should not regulate major U.S. tech companies like public utilities; 45% say it should.

The hearing starts at 2:30 p.m. Eastern. Livestream here.

(Survey methodology: The data reported here come from an online survey conducted by SurveyMonkey Oct. 23-26, among 5,474 adults and has a modeled error margin of 2 percentage points. Respondents for this survey were selected from the nearly 3 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.)

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