What do Republicans really think about Silicon Valley? Are they worried about being censored by online platforms, as the oft-heard conservative narrative goes? These were some of the questions that a recent survey from The Lincoln Network, a nonprofit that “works to bridge the gap between Silicon Valley and Washington,” sought to answer.
According to Garrett Johnson, co-founder and executive director of Lincoln Network, “the results suggest a significant gap between the conservative establishment and the grassroots base, revealing an electorate that is skeptical about both the motives of technology companies and unmoderated free expression online.”
The poll, which was conducted in conjunction with Morning Consult, surveyed a national sample of 667 Republican voters from August 1-3, 2019. Its results are broken down into four general sections: Republican demographics, technology platforms and bias, technology and the 2020 election, and regulation of technology platforms. Here are some of the key findings from each.
This section basically offered a broad snapshot of GOP voter demographics. Here the poll found that almost half of Republicans — 46 percent — attend religious services anywhere from once or twice a month to several times a week. A solid majority of 63 percent consider themselves pro-life. And a solid 61 percent consider themselves conservative or very-conservative.
Technology platforms and bias
Not surprisingly, the poll found that Google and Facebook are the most used technology platforms among GOP voters, with 72 percent saying they use Google once or more a day and 70 percent saying they use Facebook once or more a day.
That said, when it comes to election priorities, an overwhelming majority of 82 percent of Republicans said national security was a “very important” issue when thinking about their vote. That ranked higher than any other issue, topping the economy (75 percent) and even immigration (70 percent).
In contrast, tech company bias ranked as the least of their concerns, with only 12 percent considering it very important. This finding is somewhat surprising given GOP voters’ attitudes toward tech company bias. Nearly a third said that Facebook is “very biased against conservatives,” and an additional 16 percent said it was “somewhat biased against conservatives.” A significant percentage had the same concerns about Google, with 39 percent saying it was either somewhat or very biased.
Among those who said tech companies were politically or ideologically biased, a whopping 78 percent said this bias was intentional, and more than 60 percent blamed company founders, CEOs, or executives as the primary source of this bias. They also tend to believe the problem is getting worse: 85 percent of those who said they believed tech platforms have a bias against conservatives say these companies have become even more biased over the past year.
Technology and the 2020 election
When it comes to anxiety about big tech’s influence in the 2020 election, the poll found that Republicans are split almost evenly. Forty four percent said they are worried or somewhat worried, while 46 percent said they are not too worried or not worried at all.
Among those that are worried, 68 percent think big tech’s influence will favor Democrats.
Regulation of technology platforms
Similar to concerns about big tech’s influence, the poll found Republicans are divided at about 40 percent for and against more government regulation tech companies. A divide also shows up when it comes to tech companies’ regulation of themselves. Twenty six percent of GOP voters said tech companies are too restrictive regarding their content, while 29 percent said these companies are not restrictive enough.
When it comes to the threat of censorship, Republicans tended to be most worried about online platforms censoring political speech and religious views, with 14 percent and 11 percent respectively expressing this concern.
The only aspect of this topic on which the poll found some sort of consensus is fake news. Nearly two-thirds of Republican voters said fake news is not restricted enough by tech companies.
Lincoln Network’s Conclusion
“To de-escalate conservative calls for aggressive new regulations, Big Tech needs to go out of its way to be inclusive of conservative views on moderation, making product design decisions and even recruiting senior leadership,” Johnson wrote in an op-ed for The New York Post outlining the survey’s findings. He went on to say it’s unfortunate that the only prominent conservatives big tech companies do tend to hire are based in Washington to sell already-decided-upon products and policies to conservative groups and organizations.
Johnson remains hopeful, however, that tech companies and Republicans can come to a more agreeable place, writing that “if it opens its doors to conservative views, and conservative thinkers and employees, Silicon Valley might just find that there is room to compromise.”
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Andrew Collins cut his teeth in politics as a congressional campaign staffer during the 2012 election. Since then he has worked in Washington, D.C. as the digital media manager and as a staff writer at the Franklin Center for Government & Public Integrity, and is a recent graduate of the Trinity Fellows Academy (class of ’17). His work has appeared in Politico, US News & World Report, The Chicago Tribune, The Daily Caller, and The Hill. He lives in Seattle, WA.