A recent poll by SurveyMonkey for Axios appears to show that public opinion on social media firms has become quite negative amongst the majority of people questioned. 57 Percent of Americans surveyed believe that social media hurts democracy and free speech.
A SurveyMonkey poll conducted on November 9 which questioned 3,622 adults in the United States appears to show that the public opinion of social media firms has generally turned quite negative. Only 40 percent of Americans feel social media helps free speech and democracy.
Axios reports that those questioned were asked if they believe that social media does more to help or hurt democracy and free speech, in November 2017 53 percent of adults stated that they believe it helps democracy while 43 percent stated that they believe it hurts democracy, one year later and 57 percent believe that social media hurts democracy while only 40 percent believe that it helps democracy.
Notably, independents have moved from believing social media helps democracy to taking a position similar to Republicans, that it has a harmful effect. This is in contrast to Democrats who still have evenly divided feelings on the matter.
The report from Axios states:
In the past year, there has been a 15-point spike in the number of people who fear the federal government won’t do enough to regulate big tech companies — with 55% now sharing this concern.
In that same period, there was a 14-point increase in those who feel technology has hurt democracy and free speech.
The biggest spike has been among Republicans, presumably because of increased concern about perceived censorship of conservative voices on social media.
The report blames a number of scandals throughout the past year for the public’s growing distrust of social media companies, notably the Facebook Cambridge Analytica scandal in which the personal data of 87 million users was left vulnerable to abuse by third parties.
The Axios report notes that while many discussions surrounding government regulation are often ignored by the public at large, the overwhelming use of social media and smartphones has brought the discussion of social media regulation to the forefront of the public conversation. The Axios report states:
Unlike most conversations about government regulation, this is not an obscure topic for most Americans. An overwhelming majority use — and perhaps over-use — the technologies in question.
Nearly two-thirds (63%) of respondents say they sleep with their phone in or next to their bed. And that jumps to 73% among millennials.
More than half (51%) say smartphones are the hardest technology for most people to live without. And that jumps to 67% among millennials.
Read the full report from Axios here.