Americans have little confidence in technology companies like Facebook, Twitter and Google to prevent the misuse of their platforms to influence the 2020 presidential election. Above, workers in Facebook's "war room" in Menlo Park, California, in 2018. (Noah Berger/AFP via Getty Images)
Americans have little confidence in technology companies like Facebook, Twitter and Google to prevent the misuse of their platforms to influence the 2020 presidential election. Above, workers in Facebook’s “war room” in Menlo Park, California, in 2018. (Noah Berger/AFP via Getty Images)

Little confidence in tech companies to prevent misuse of platforms in electionNearly three-quarters of Americans (74%) express little or no confidence in technology companies like Facebook, Twitter and Google to prevent the misuse of their platforms to influence the 2020 presidential election, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted in January. At the same time, 78% say these companies have a responsibility to prevent such misuse.

Confidence in technology companies to prevent the misuse of their platforms is even lower than it was in the weeks before the 2018 midterm elections, when about two-thirds of adults had little confidence these companies would prevent election influence on their platforms.

Overall, just a quarter of adults say they are confident in tech companies to prevent their platforms from being exploited for undue influence in the election, with 20% saying they are somewhat confident and only 5% saying they are very confident. An overwhelming majority expresses low confidence in tech companies, including 43% who say they are not too confident and about three-in-ten (31%) who say they are not at all confident.

For this analysis of views on technology companies and the 2020 election, we surveyed 6,298 U.S. adults in January 2020 (the question was asked of half of the total sample of 12,638 adults). Everyone who took part is a member of Pew Research Center’s American Trends Panel (ATP), an online survey panel that is recruited through national, random sampling of residential addresses. This way, nearly all U.S. adults have a chance of selection. The survey is weighted to be representative of the U.S. adult population by gender, race, ethnicity, partisan affiliation, education and other categories. Read more about the ATP’s methodology.

Here are the questions used for this report, along with responses, and its methodology.

Want to keep up with trends shaping the 2020 U.S. presidential election?

Sign up to receive our monthly newsletter.

Nearly identical shares of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents (76%) and Democrats and Democratic leaners (74%) have little or no confidence in technology companies to prevent misuse of their platforms in the upcoming election. Democrats express even less confidence in tech companies than in 2018, while Republicans’ views are little changed. Over the past decade, other surveys have found sharp declines in the shares in both parties who say technology companies have a positive impact on the country.

Nearly eight-in-ten Americans (78%) say these technology companies have a responsibility to prevent the misuse of their platforms to influence the election, with overwhelming majorities of Republicans (75%) and Democrats (81%) taking this position.

Most say tech companies responsible for preventing election influenceWhile majorities of all age groups hold tech companies responsible for preventing misuse on their platforms in the election, younger adults are less likely to say this than their older counterparts: 74% of those ages 18 to 29 and 72% of those ages 30 to 49 hold this view, compared with eight-in-ten or more of those ages 50 or older.

Adults under 30 also express slightly more confidence in technology companies than their elders: 31% of those ages 18 to 29 say they are at least somewhat confident in these companies to prevent the misuse of their platforms to influence the election, while 20% of those ages 65 and older are at least somewhat confident.

Younger adults somewhat less likely than older Americans to say tech companies are responsible for preventing misuse of their platforms in 2020 election

Despite their similar overall responses on this question, there is some evidence in previous Pew Research surveys that partisans have somewhat different concerns about technology firms. For instance, a 2018 survey found that Republicans were more likely than Democrats to feel social media platforms favor the views of liberals over conservatives.

Further, Democrats were more likely than Republicans to say that tech firms should be regulated more than they are now. They also were more likely to support greater government regulation about what companies can do with customers’ personal data. Similarly, Democrats were more likely to believe tech companies should take steps to restrict false information online, even if it limited freedom of information.

Note: Here are the questions used for this report, along with responses, and its methodology.

Hannah Gilberstadt  is a research assistant focusing on U.S. politics and policy at Pew Research Center.