Trust in Social Platforms’ Handling of Political Views Is Shaky, Particularly Among Republicans

Pew Research Center found that almost three-quarters of U.S. adults overall believe censorship is occurring

Conservative Republicans were far more likely to believe social sites censor political viewpoints than moderate or liberal Republicans were klevo/iStock
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Nearly three-quarters of adults in the U.S. believe that social media sites intentionally censor political viewpoints that they find objectionable, and that belief is especially prevalent among Republicans and independents who lean toward the GOP, according to a new survey from Pew Research Center.

The think tank surveyed 4,708 U.S. adults between June 16 and 22, finding that 37% feel that it is very likely that social networks are censoring political viewpoints, while 36% believe it is somewhat likely and 25% don’t think it is happening.

Spilt by party, nine out of 10 Republicans or Republican-leaners believe it is at least somewhat likely that those platforms are intentionally censoring political viewpoints, up from 85% in 2018, while just 19% of Democrats and independents who lean Democrat consider the possibility very likely and 40% somewhat likely.

Conservative Republicans (70%) were far more likely to believe social sites censor political viewpoints than moderate or liberal Republicans (44%) were.

Pew pointed out that Twitter’s decision in May to label tweets from President Donald Trump as misleading likely affected the opinions of Trump supporters and other Republicans and Republican-leaners on the matter.

The idea that major technology companies back liberal views over conservative views was also more widespread among Republicans, not surprisingly, with 69% believing this to be true, compared with just 25% of Democrats and Democrat-leaners.

Overall, 43% of respondents said major technology companies support the views of liberals over conservatives, while 13% believed the opposite and 39% felt that the platforms treated both sides equally.

U.S. adults were split on whether social networks should label posts from elected officials as inaccurate or misleading, with 51% saying they strongly or somewhat approve of the process, while 46% at least somewhat disapproved.

Party lines came into play here, as well, with 73% of Democrats and Democrat-leaners somewhat or strongly approving of labeling, while 71% of Republicans and Republican-leaders at least somewhat disapproved of the practice.

Pew said Republicans were also far more likely than Democrats to say they were not confident in social networking sites’ ability to determine which posts should be labeled as inaccurate or misleading, at 50% and 11%, respectively.

Overall, 66% of respondents expressed not too much confidence in social platforms’ ability to decide on labeling posts, or none at all, while 31% said they had a great deal or some confidence in those sites.

Pew said in its report, “Americans have complicated feelings about their relationship with big technology companies. While they have appreciated the impact of technology over recent decades and rely on these companies’ products to communicate, shop and get news, many have also grown critical of the industry and have expressed concerns about the executives who run them. This has become a particularly pointed issue in politics, with critics accusing tech firms of political bias and stifling open discussion.”


david.cohen@adweek.com David Cohen is editor of Adweek's Social Pro Daily.