A wide majority of Colorado voters want the government to bring down the hammer on powerful social media companies, according to a new survey, though the reasons given vary greatly depending on the voters' partisan affiliation.
Polling data released Thursday by Colorado-based Magellan Strategies show that 70% of registered voters agreed that companies like Facebook and Twitter need more regulation and oversight, with 37% "strongly" agreeing and 33% agreeing "somewhat." Just 26% disagreed, with another 4% holding no opinion.
The results land as House leaders are reaching rare bipartisan agreement that Congress needs to curb technology companies that have amassed too much power. Both U.S. Reps. David Cicilline, D-R.I., and Ken Buck, R-Colo., — the chairman and ranking member, respectively, of a key judiciary subcommittee — said last week that it's time to reform antitrust laws to rein in the giant tech companies.
Louisville-based Magellan Strategies, a Republican polling and political consulting firm, surveyed 769 registered Colorado voters from Feb. 9-17 using an online questionnaire. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.53 percentage points and was weighted to reflect the demographics of the state's electorate.
The pollsters found that state voters mostly don't trust various levels of government to address important issues and — by similar margins — don't trust national media to report the news objectively. Local and state media fare somewhat better but are still underwater with voters.
The poll's respondents have a nearly uniformly positive view of democracy but split based on party affiliation, sex, age and income level when it comes to capitalism, socialism and the stock market.
Magellan released the first half of the poll's results a week ago. Those showed that Democrats in Colorado are far more likely to be concerned about becoming infected with the coronavirus and are likewise more interested in getting vaccinated than state Republicans.
In the first batch of results, voters also divided along partisan lines when asked to list their most pressing issues, with Democrats naming the vaccine rollout and the pandemic in general, while Republicans tended to prioritize jobs and the economy, opening businesses and mask policies.
While there was broad agreement among voters that the government should regulate social media companies — 73% of Democrats and 71% of Republicans said the government needs to do something — there was almost no overlap in the rationales offered by members of the two major parties when they were asked to explain their positions.
Democrats mostly said they want to stop the spread of misinformation and prevent hate groups from organizing. Republicans, on the other hand, said it was a question of freedom of speech and keeping conservative voices from being silenced.
"Social media is used to spread dangerous falsehoods, it was the primary tool Trump used to incite an insurrection by spreading lies about the election to his followers," said a Democrat in her 30s.
A suburban Democratic baby boomer said: "We have become more divided since social media has become so popular. Conspiracy theories, lots of anger and nastiness."
"When a private company can choose what views are allowed to be seen or talked about, can arbitrarily decide what is true or not, can completely deplatform anyone who disagrees with their leftist ideals, then free speach is dead, and you're now living in communist America," said a Republican baby boomer who lives in a small town.
"The ability for social media to claim government protection while undermining freedom of speech guaranteed in the Constitution the government promises to defend is getting out of control," said a suburban millennial Republican.
Trust in federal, state and local governments to solve problems ranged from low to extremely low among respondents, with the federal government scoring the worst.
Just 13% of respondents said they had a great deal of trust or a lot of trust in the federal government to address the country's most important issues, compared to 42% who said they had no trust at all. Local government did slightly better, with 15% saying they had the same higher levels of trust and 25% saying they didn't have any trust.
State government performed slightly better with 20% expressing higher degrees of trust in it, but 30% of respondents said they didn't trust the state at all.
According to a breakdown of the polling data provided by Magellan, respondents who said they voted for Democrat Joe Biden had the highest level of trust in the federal government, with 24% naming the top levels of trust and only 14% saying they had zero trust.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, those who said they voted for Republican Donald Trump had the lowest level of trust in the federal government, with just 3% saying they had a great deal or a lot of trust and fully 78% saying they lacked trust in the feds entirely.
More than half of those surveyed — 54% — said they don't trust national media to report news in an unbiased and objective manner, with only 15% saying they trust national media a great deal or a lot.
State and local media performed somewhat better, with 20% saying they trusted the outlets and 38% saying they don't.
Asked to rate the ideals of democracy, 82% of respondents said they had a favorable view and 14% said they had an unfavorable view, with every demographic group giving solid thumbs up. By party, 87% of Democrats have a favorable view of democracy, as do 79% of Republicans and 82% of unaffiliated voters. Women who voted for Biden had the highest level of approval for democracy at 91%, but the group with the lowest relative level of support — female Trump voters — weren't far off, at 68%.
Approval ratings for capitalism, socialism and the stock market are less uniform.
Capitalism is viewed favorably by 58% of total respondents and unfavorably by 35%. Among Republican men, 82% have a favorable view of capitalism and 17% don't, while only 34% of Democratic women view capitalism favorably and 56% view the economic system unfavorably. The lowest approval rating for capitalism was among those with an annual household income under $30,000. Only 33% of those respondents had a favorable view, with 51% holding an unfavorable view.
Socialism — a word pollster David Flaherty acknowledged means very different things to different people — was viewed favorably by 37% of respondents and unfavorably by 57%, though 75% of Democrats under the age of 40 have a positive impression of socialism, compared to 18% who don't, and only 5% of Republican voters think highly of socialism while 93% view it negatively.
The stock market is viewed favorably by 52% of respondents and unfavorably by 37%. Those with annual household incomes over $150,000, however, approve 74% to 23%, and Democratic women overall hold the opposite view, disapproving 52% to 33%.
The poll wasn't commissioned by a client but was conducted by Magellan to better understand the state electorate, Flaherty said.