In 2022 – when the country is dishearteningly divided on racial, socioeconomic, political, ideological, regional, and generational lines – it is rare for Americans to collectively support or agree upon anything.
Yet, as Big Tech monopolies increasingly control our daily lives, our economy, and the news and information we read, the American public is uniquely united on one matter: the need to curb Big Tech’s undue power and unjust profiteering in the news and publishing industries.
New polling by Schoen-Cooperman Research, which was conducted among a representative sample of U.S. adults, and commissioned by News Media Alliance – reveals widespread public concern over Big Tech’s outsized influence with respect to news and publishing, as well as broad-based support for reforms to rein in these monopolies.
Indeed, roughly 4-in-5 Americans – a remarkably high share – are concerned that Big Tech companies have too much power over the news and publishing industries (79%) and manipulate these industries for their own gain (78%).
Over the last two decades, though the world of news and information has changed dramatically with the expansion of Big Tech, the United States’ anti-trust and anti-monopoly laws have not changed with it.
News aggregator sites like Google News and Facebook News drive traffic (and profit) to their sites by presenting a constant flow of articles from thousands of publishers – including smaller and local operators – but are able to do so without offering any compensation or economic benefit to these content providers.
This is not only blatantly unfair, but is also one of the major reasons why local newspapers across the country are facing unprecedented challenges in remaining both economically viable and as the life-blood of their communities.
Consequently, more than three-quarters of U.S. adults surveyed are concerned that Big Tech companies are driving small and local news outlets out of business, and agree that “Big Tech’s monopoly over the news and publishing industries is a threat to the free press and unfair to publishers, especially to small and local outlets.”
In addition to being broadly concerned about this problem, the American public wants change, and is looking to their elected leaders in Washington, D.C. to deliver.
Indeed, roughly 4-in-5 Americans agree with statements to this effect, including “I support Congress taking steps to give small and local publishers more power in negotiations with Big Tech companies” (81%) as well as “Congress needs to rein in Big Tech by passing reforms that would make the publishing industry fairer for smaller media entities and local operators” (77%).
In terms of specific reforms Congress can pursue, our survey assessed public support for a specific piece of legislation that was introduced this year known as the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act (JCPA). This is a bipartisan proposal that would allow news publishers to negotiate, under the authority of a federal intermediary, fair terms for use of their content by Big Tech companies.
In my experience as a professional pollster who has worked in the industry for more than 40 years, it is rare for an issue or piece of legislation to garner this level of broad-based and enthusiastic public support.
Notably, after reading a brief description of the bill, strong majorities of the American public support Congress passing the JCPA (70%) and believe it is important for Congress to pass the JCPA (64%).
The headquarters of Facebook is seen above in London.
Americans also indicate that a political candidate’s support for the JCPA – or lack thereof – would impact their vote in an election. By a four-to-one margin, U.S. adults would be more likely, rather than less likely, to back a candidate for Congress who supported the JCPA.
To that end, 7-in-10 Americans (69%) agree that “elected officials who oppose the JCPA are allowing Big Tech companies to continue manipulating the news and publishing industries for their own gain, leaving small and local publishers powerless.”
In addition to being supportive of the JCPA, the public broadly favors general reforms to this effect. Strong majorities support Congress passing laws that would allow news publishers to band together to collectively negotiate fairer terms for use of content by Big Tech (71%) and increase regulations on Big Tech in order to curb their power over the news and publishing industries (57%).
And by roughly a three-to-one margin, Americans would be more likely, rather than less likely, to back political candidates who support both reforms.
Ultimately, in my experience as a professional pollster who has worked in the industry for more than forty years, it is rare for an issue or piece of legislation to garner this level of broad-based and enthusiastic public support.
The collective American public wants to rein in Big Tech, and elected officials from both parties have an opportunity to deliver on targeted reforms – by advancing the JCPA, or a similar version of the bill –which our data indicates would have a demonstrably positive electoral impact for these members.
The Founding Fathers enshrined protections for a press free from government regulation in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution because a free and diverse press is the backbone of a healthy and vibrant republic.
But the Founders could not have envisioned a future in which nearly all news and information would be controlled by two private entities: Facebook and Google.
If America is to have a news industry, an economy, and a country that is truly free and fair, Congress must stop allowing Big Tech companies to engage in market manipulation without consequence.
Douglas E. Schoen has more than 40 years of experience as a pollster and political consultant. He served as adviser to President Bill Clinton and to the presidential campaign of Michael Bloomberg. Schoen is founder and partner of Schoen Cooperman Research.