CGO Tech Poll

Executive Summary

In the latest installment of our ongoing poll (administered by YouGov), we continue to unpack how Americans view their relationship with today’s major tech platforms.

This survey captures how we view tech but also answers important questions ranging from how we should regulate companies to how our views about technology differ based on gender, political ideology, and education.

Along with our ongoing questions about which tech companies Americans trust and which they think should be broken up, we also asked questions about: 

  • Is Elon Musk’s purchase of Twitter good for the future of social media?
  • Is Jeff Bezos’ purchase of the Washington Post good for the future of traditional media?
  • Should social media platforms be able to remove disruptive and harmful elected officials, content, and information?
  • Is social media crucial to political discourse and the primary way people share their political beliefs?
  • Are news coverage and free speech good for American society?

Complete polling data results (PDF)

Findings


Distrust of tech companies

  • Tiktok and Facebook are the most distrusted companies
  • Men, conservatives, and more educated Americans show greater distrust

Respondents were asked how much they trust various tech companies to collect and use their data. The most distrusted tech companies are TikTok (60%), Facebook (61%), and Twitter (53%).

Overall, Men are more distrustful across the board.

Distrust of government


Following the 2020 election, Republican distrust of the federal government collecting their data has spiked, while Democrat distrust has dropped. Since our last poll, Republican has started to fade while Democrat distrust has only increased.

Since our polling began, distrust in the federal government has increased by 3.5 percentage points, the least of the three levels of government. Distrust in state governments to collect and use data increased by 7.7 percentage points.

Trust in government to collect and use personal data has fallen during the COVID-19 pandemic with local government seeing the largest increase in distrust at 8.3 percentage points.



 

Content and user moderation


Americans seem to overwhelmingly agree that social media companies are justified in content moderation:

  • 70% agree that social media companies are justified in removing users that violate their rules
  • 65% agree that social media companies are justified in removing content that they think poses a risk to public health and safety
  • 61% agree that social media companies are justified in removing elected officials that violate their rules
  • 60% support platforms removing disruptive users and 52% support removing disruptive elected officials

Men are more likely to disagree that trolling elected officials should be removed (42% of men versus 30% of women). A similar trend exists when the user is not an elected official with 37% of men and 23% of women thinking removing trolls is unjustified.

Overall, 60% of respondents agree that social media companies can ban disruptive users unless that user is an elected official, in which case 52% agree with a removal.

Free speech, Traditional News, and Social Media


Americans hold some contradicting views regarding free speech, news, and social media.

86% agree that free speech is necessary for promoting equality and social change; but

  • 76% agree that news companies and media outlets should be fined for reporting biased or inaccurate information
  • 54% agree that social media companies should be held responsible for offensive content posted by users


61% of Americans agree that social media platforms have become the primary channel by which important public policy conversions are taking place, but

  • 68% say they avoid political conversations online
  • 53% don’t feel comfortable sharing political views on social media
  • Only 24% say that they primarily use social media to share political beliefs with others

As political interest increases, support for fines over fake news decreases. Politically disinterested respondents were more likely to not have an opinion on fines for social media companies with 30% responding not sure versus 15% of politically minded respondents.


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Survey methodology



Results for this CGO/YouGov Tech Poll poll are based on web-based panel participants August 26-31, 2021. The data is weighted to be representative of the U.S. adult population. Some numbers provided above have been rounded for clarity. For results based on the total sample of national adults, the margin of sampling error is ±3.43 percentage points at the 95% confidence level.

Contact


If you’d like to contact us about the poll or our other research, please reach out to [email protected]. Or if this is a media inquiry, please feel free to reach out to [email protected].

CGO scholars and fellows frequently comment on a variety of topics for the popular press. The views expressed therein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Center for Growth and Opportunity or the views of Utah State University.

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