Voters think social media companies have too much influence on the news people read

Matthew SmithLead data journalist
October 21, 2020, 12:13 PM UTC

Republicans see social media firms as biased against people on their side of the political divide 

Last week, Twitter locked the New York Post’s account following the publication’s tweets about a Hunter Biden story, the veracity of which has been called into question. The move sparked cries of censorship, and it has reignited the debate over whether social media companies have too much power over national discourse. 

A new Washington Examiner/YouGov poll finds that three-quarters of registered voters believe social media companies have too much influence on what political news people read. 

This is a view held across the political spectrum: 82% of Republicans, 71% of Democrats and 73% of Independents all think social media platforms have too much power in this regard. 

There is also a tendency to believe that bans being doled out by social media companies are aimed more at Republicans. Two in five registered voters (39%) think that such bans display a bias against Republicans, while just 9% think they target Democrats more. A further 20% of registered voters think the bias is against both parties. Only a quarter (23%) don’t think there has been bias against either main party. 

Republicans see social media bans as being aimed primarily against their own  side of the aisle, at 82%. 

Democrats tend to think the bans haven’t been biased against either party, at 39%. A further 28% think they have been biased against both major parties, with only 15% saying biased against Democrats and just 6% biased against Republicans. 

Independents are most likely to say the bans have been more likely to target Republicans (37%). Another 26% think they are biased against both, with just 6% thinking they’re biased against Democrats only. One in five (20%) believe they’re not biased against either of the two big parties. 

With this in mind, it is no surprise that most registered voters (55%) support regulation of big technology companies to limit potential political bias. Backing for such a move is highest among Republicans (69%), with pluralities of Democrats (48%) and Independents (46%) also in support. 

That all being said, most registered voters (57%) also believe that it is the duty of social media platforms to restrict content they believe to be false. Only a third (34%) think such content should remain unchallenged by the hosting companies. 

There is a huge partisan gap on this issue: 83% of Democrats think social media platforms should restrict content they believe to be false, as do 53% of Independents but only 28% of Republicans. Close to two thirds of Republicans (63%) think that social media companies should not be policing content on their platforms in this manner. 

See the toplines and crosstabs from this Washington Examiner/YouGov Poll 

Methodology: This article is based on a flash poll of 1,200 registered voters surveyed via YouGov Direct on October 4, 2020 between 11:300 a.m. and 1:27 p.m. This YouGov Direct Poll was weighted according to age, gender, race, education, and 2016 presidential vote. The margin of error is ±3.7%       

Image: Getty