Poll finds that most Americans think internet and technology companies do more harm than good but are ambivalent about major government regulation
WASHINGTON – (March 11, 2020) – A majority of Americans across the political spectrum believe tech companies have too much power and do more harm than good, and most people have deep concerns about how companies such as Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google use their personal data, accordingto a new poll released today by Gallup and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.
The wide-ranging report, “Techlash? America’s Growing Concern with Major Technology Companies,” provides findings on how Americans view the roles internet and technology companies play in their lives and in society. Major findings include the following:
- Americans believe internet and tech companies have a negative impact on American life: People think the companies do more to divide society (60%) than to unite it (11%); misinform the public about the news (47%) rather than make people more informed (19%); and create more problems than they solve (47%), rather than solve more problems than they create (15%).
- Misinformation, hate speech and data privacy are top concerns: Americans are overwhelmingly concerned about misinformation on the internet (74%), the privacy of their personal data (68%), and they are very concerned about hate speech and other abusive or threatening language online (56%).
- A bipartisan majority believes internet and tech companies have too much power: While 77% of Americans hold this opinion, Americans are equally divided on whether the government should intervene to break up these companies. Republicans tend to be more critical of internet and tech companies than Democrats and independents.
- Americans say leaders are not paying enough attention: Fifty-nine percent say elected officials and political candidates are paying too little attention to technology issues, including 67% of young adults (aged 18-34) and 71% of Democrats, versus 43% of Republicans and 57% of independents.
- People don’t trust tech companies to police content on their platforms, but they trust the government even less: A majority of Americans don’t trust internet and tech companies much (44%) or at all (40%) to make the right decisions about what content is allowed on online platforms. But 55% of people still prefer that the companies make those decisions, rather than the government (44%).
The report finds widespread, bipartisan concerns about internet and tech companies’ roles in American society.
“The techlash is real,” said Sam Gill, senior vice president and chief program officer at Knight Foundation. “People are concerned about major tech companies and their effects on democracy. But they are deeply divided on what should be done.”
These findings add to the public debate about internet and technology companies, whose public support has declined in recent years. Additional Gallup polling has shown that in 2019, 43% of Americans viewed them positively, down from 60% in 2015.
Still, the current study found that Americans continue to use tech platforms, despite their concerns.
The survey is part of Gallup and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation’s Trust, Media and Democracy research series, which aims to address the decline in trust for journalism and other democratic institutions by examining the causes and supporting solutions.
To be connected with experts from Knight Foundation to discuss the new poll, and the backlash against technology and internet companies more broadly, please contact Tony Franquiz at [email protected] or 202-374-5393.
About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
Knight Foundation is a national foundation with strong local roots. We invest in journalism, in the arts, and in the success of cities where brothers John S. and James L. Knight once published newspapers. Our goal is to foster informed and engaged communities, which we believe are essential for a healthy democracy. For more, visit kf.org.
Media Contact: Tony Franquiz; Phone: 202-374-5393; [email protected]