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Views of Big Tech Worsen; Public Wants More Regulation

Views of Big Tech Worsen; Public Wants More Regulation

Story Highlights

  • Positive views have fallen from 46% in August 2019 to 34% now
  • 57% want more government regulation of technology companies, up nine points
  • Republicans' negative ratings have risen from 37% to 65%

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Americans' views of large technology companies have become significantly more negative over the past 18 months, and public support for increased government regulation of these businesses has risen.

A 45% plurality of U.S. adults have a very or somewhat negative view of these firms, defined in the survey as "technology companies, such as Amazon, Facebook and Google." Another 34% have a very or somewhat positive opinion of them, and 20% are neutral.

The one in three Americans with positive views of Big Tech reflects a decline from 46% in August 2019, while negative views have increased from 33% to 45%. And the proportion with a very negative view has more than doubled, from 10% to 22%.

Meanwhile, the percentage of Americans who think the government should increase its regulation of technology firms has risen from 48% to 57%. Calls for decreased regulation stayed roughly the same, but the proportion favoring the same amount of oversight has fallen from 40% to 28%.

Bar charts. Americans' views of technology companies such as Amazon, Facebook and Google, and their opinions of what the government should do about its regulation of them. In all, 34% of U.S. adults currently view them positively, 20% have a neutral opinion and 45% a negative opinion. The percentage with a very negative opinion has more than doubled, from 10% in August 2019 to 22% now. Over the same time, calls for increased government regulation of these companies have risen from 48% to the current 57%. Currently, 28% prefer not to see any change in regulation and 13% favor decreased regulation.

These latest findings are from a Jan. 21-Feb. 2 Gallup poll that was conducted in the wake of insurrectionists' storming of the U.S. Capitol. In response to the riots and then-President Donald Trump's social media posts, Twitter permanently suspended his account, and Facebook indefinitely banned him from their platforms out of a concern that he would incite violence. Likewise, Google, Amazon and Apple removed the social media platform Parler, which is popular among conservatives, as a result of similar concerns.

The latest actions of these technology companies are not without precedent, though permanent bans are rare. Efforts by these firms to flag and eliminate misinformation were stepped up last year as the nation was dealing with the coronavirus pandemic and the U.S. presidential election. As a result, some of Trump's posts were fact-checked, flagged as false or misleading, or removed.

Polling conducted by Gallup and Knight Foundation in September 2020 found that broad majorities of Americans were concerned about a number of issues related directly to Big Tech, including the spread of misinformation on the internet, the size and power of large technology companies, online hate speech, foreign interference in U.S. elections and the privacy of personal data online. These issues were among the ones addressed during congressional hearings last July and October with the CEOs of Amazon, Facebook, Twitter, Google and Apple.

Republicans' and Independents' Shifting Views of Technology Companies

Republicans and, to a lesser degree, independents have much bleaker views of Big Tech now than they did in August 2019. Republicans' 37% negative rating in 2019 has grown to 65% and independents' has risen from 33% to 44%. As a result, independents and Republicans now hold net-negative views of Big Tech, in contrast to their slightly more positive than negative evaluations in 2019.

At the same time, Democrats' ratings are basically unchanged, with 49% positive, 21% neutral and 30% negative.

Americans' Views of Technology Companies, by Party Identification
Next, please say whether your overall view of technology companies, such as Amazon, Facebook and Google, is very positive, somewhat positive, neutral, somewhat negative or very negative.
Positive Neutral Negative Net positive
minus negative
% % % pct. pts.
2021 Jan 21-Feb 2
Republican 20 15 65 -45
Independent 33 23 44 -11
Democrat 49 21 30 +19
2019 Aug 1-14
Republican 43 19 37 +6
Independent 43 23 33 +10
Democrat 49 21 29 +20

Republicans' worsening views are likely owed, at least in part, to their perceptions that technology companies have an anti-conservative bias, given their actions toward Trump, Parler and other conservative-aligned individuals and groups.

Rare Bipartisan Call for Increased Government Regulation of Tech Companies

In a rare show of bipartisan agreement, majorities of Americans across party lines now think the government should increase its regulation of the big technology companies. Sixty percent of Democrats, 58% of independents and 53% of Republicans support more oversight.

The largest increase is among independents, whose calls for more regulation have risen 15 points since 2019. Republicans' support for regulation increased five points and Democrats' edged up four points.

More Americans Call for Increased Regulation of Tech Companies
Do you think the government should increase, decrease or not change its regulation of technology companies such as Amazon, Facebook and Google?
Increase Decrease Not change
% % %
2021 Jan 21-Feb 2
Republican 53 20 23
Independent 58 11 28
Democrat 60 8 30
2019 Aug 1-14
Republican 48 12 39
Independent 43 12 43
Democrat 56 5 38

Not only is agreement among partisans out of the ordinary in the current political climate, but it is particularly notable for it to occur on the issue of government regulation. Gallup polling has long found Republicans opposed to big government and government regulation of business. Last September, 60% of Republicans, 35% of independents and 16% of Democrats said they thought there was too much government regulation of business and industry in general. In the case of technology companies, then, Republicans' desire for government action seems borne more out of addressing a perceived problem -- anti-conservative bias -- than from a philosophical view about government involvement in private companies' decisions.

Bottom Line

Views of Big Tech have grown more negative as the industry has drawn the ire of Republicans who view it as anti-conservative. Although Democrats view large technology companies positively on balance, they join Republicans in supporting increased government regulation of them as concerns have arisen about their size and power.

There is bipartisan agreement about some antitrust issues as they relate to the large technology companies, although partisans disagree about how to address them. Beyond this, they also disagree about what regulations need to address, with Republicans focusing on the alleged censoring of conservative voices, while Democrats see a need for addressing misinformation and hate speech online.

Both parties have indicated their desire to amend or repeal Section 230, the 1996 law that provides internet platforms protection from liability for what their users post. President Joe Biden, in particular, has been critical of the law and has said he would like to see it revoked, which may signal that a change will happen soon.

View complete question responses and trends (PDF download).

Learn more about how the Gallup Poll Social Series works.

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