36% of Americans think the government should regulate social media companies

As Mark Zuckerberg faces questions from Congress, he also has some public problems. An earlier Economist/YouGov poll found Facebook users dissatisfied with the company’s response to the use of personal data by Cambridge Analytica during the 2016 election. In this week’s poll, Zuckerberg is the only one of five tech leaders to get an unfavorable rating from the public overall. He and Microsoft’s Bill Gates are the best-known of the tech leaders, but public assessments of the two are very different. 

Americans like Gates very much, but are far less sure about Zuckerberg. Those who use Facebook at least once a week have a somewhat better opinion of Zuckerberg: 40% of them are favorable, while 42% are not.

Zuckerberg clearly needs to convince his Congressional questioners that Facebook will do more to protect data. Americans are pretty sure it hasn’t done enough up to now. So far at least, a large majority think Facebook hasn’t done enough to safeguard data, and there is doubt that it will do that in the future, despite promises. 

Seven in ten are concerned about the use of their personal information by social media sites to decide what ads to display on their feed or page, although there is a partisan split on whether or not Russian-backed content influenced the 2016 presidential election. Three in four Democrats say it did; two in three Republicans say it did not.

More than half of Facebook users say they have considered deleting their Facebook profiles. That’s especially true for younger adult users (63% of those under 30 have thought about deleting their profiles). Majorities of both liberals and conservatives have thought about it.

But will they do it? So far, relatively few say this is happening among many of their friends and family. But there is a lot of suspicion. Two in three say they have little or no trust that social media companies will safeguard their personal data.

The issue then becomes what happens now. Slightly more favor government regulation of how social media companies safeguard their personal data. Republicans, who tend to oppose government regulation in many areas, are evenly divided on this. So are those who regularly use Facebook.

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Photo: Getty

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