Media and Democracy: Unpacking America’s Complex Views on the Digital Public Square – Knight Foundation
Learning and Impact

Media and Democracy: Unpacking America’s Complex Views on the Digital Public Square


Are internet technologies doing more harm than good to our democracy? And what – if anything – should lawmakers do about it?

Because these questions are critical to U.S. elections, democracy and public health, Gallup and Knight Foundation sought American views on the way forward. 

Surprisingly, Americans’ opinions did not always follow party lines when it comes to Internet regulation. In fact, half of Americans occupy a diverse middle ground, a new Gallup/Knight survey of 10,000 adults found, offering a new lens on the national conversation on free expression online.


  • A wide-range of views: Americans attitudes go beyond party lines to fall into six groups with respect to internet regulation.
  • Social Media Use: Americans use social media sites more than any other type of website. Those who say a social media site is one of their most used tend to go to these platforms for entertainment (80%) and to connect with others (70%), more rather than for news (62%).
  • Online vs. Offline: Americans rarely engage in politics online, and 32% say debates on social media make them less likely to use social media. But large numbers say these debates make them more likely to take offline action like voting (48%) or more closely following the news (39%).
  • Harmful Content: Most Americans (90%) believe  social media makes it easier for harmful and extreme viewpoints to spread. Most say they distrust (76%)  what they see on social media. Black Americans are the most likely to be concerned about hate speech and abusive content (70%).
  • Deep Concerns: Among Americans, 71% say the internet does more to divide us than bring us together, and 62% say that elected officials pay too little attention to tech issues.

TAKE THE QUIZ and see how your views match up.

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