President Donald Trump's Twitter account gives him a direct line to more than 81 million followers without interruption or media interpretation. But, that direct line isn’t appreciated by all. Nearly two in three Americans (63%) believe Trump tweets too much, and only 3 percent want him to tweet more frequently.
The latest Economist/YouGov Poll suggests Americans also believe Trump’s messages on social media should be treated the same way that social media platforms treat ordinary citizens. Though Trump uses Twitter to communicate with the public and occasionally announce policy, Americans – by three to one – don’t believe his tweets should be treated as government policy. Only one in five – Republicans as well as Democrats – say the public should take what the president says in his tweets “very seriously.”
Recently, the president’s tweets have fallen victim to Twitter’s own rules about content. Twitter placed a warning notice on his tweet about the protests following George Floyd’s killing in Minneapolis police custody, saying it glorified violence. Americans approve of Twitter’s action to place a warning on the president’s tweet.
Republicans are the exception: a majority (61%) of them disapprove of Twitter’s action, though one in four Republicans (24%) approve.
Most Americans want social media companies to fact-check posts and show when information is incorrect (something Twitter did to two of the president’s tweets about mail-in voting), and to hide posts that encourage violence. Few think any regulation should be left to government, and fewer than one in five support no regulation at all.
A plurality of Republicans agrees that social media platforms should fact check and hide posts that encourage violence. There is also majority support for social media companies deleting or restricting the accounts of those who post false information or hate speech.
One problem with social media companies making decisions about what to post is that many Americans doubt their fairness. By more than two to one (48% to 21%) Americans say companies will be biased when they apply their rules for fact-checking and censorship. That bias would be in the liberal direction, according to a third of the public (and two-thirds of Republicans). Just a quarter (25%) think the companies won’t be biased at all, and about one in nine (11%) say they will lean in the conservative direction.
Despite concerns about bias, Americans think political leaders and candidates should be subject to the same rules as ordinary citizens when it comes to their social media presence. On this, there is very little party difference.
One in four Americans regrets something they’ve posted on social media. For some, it was teenage posts, for some it was politics, for others it was a comment about a friend or acquaintance that they later regretted. A few said they had posted something that turned out to be wrong.