Hawley Plan to Regulate Tech’s Political Bias Tops Policy Ideas Poll

Majorities of registered voters believe social media political bias is at least a minor problem

Sen. Josh Hawley / Getty Images
• July 11, 2019 11:25 am


A new poll reveals that a plurality of registered voters support Sen. Josh Hawley's (R., Mo.) proposal to compel big tech firms to prove that their algorithms are not politically biased.

The poll, released Thursday by data firm Echelon Insights, finds that majorities of registered voters — including Republicans, Democrats, and independents — believe that political bias on the part of sites like Facebook and Twitter is at least a minor problem. Those who share political content on social media are more likely to think that there is bias than those who do not.

Hawley is among the Americans worried about censorship. Last month, he introduced a proposal to withhold certain legal protections from major tech firms unless they proved, to the satisfaction of the Federal Trade Commission, that the algorithms they use to serve content are not biased politically.

It turns out that that idea plays well with the American public. In the Echelon poll, respondents were net 27 percent favorable to the Hawley proposal — 48 percent favored, 21 percent opposed, and 30 percent were unsure. The proposal was net-popular across a variety of demographics, but received the most support from voters who were over 50 or who regularly posted political content on social media.

Majorities of both Republicans and independents outright favored the idea. Democrats, meanwhile, were 26 percent net favorable, with 33 percent unsure how they felt about the idea.

Hawley's censorship idea outshone two other tech-related proposals that Echelon also polled. Registered voters as a whole were slightly net negative (40 percent favorable, 43 percent unfavorable) on Andrew Yang's proposal for a Universal Basic Income, which the 2020 candidate has said is meant to forestall civil unrest caused by mass technological unemployment. Sen. Elizabeth Warren's (D., Mass.) plan to break up big tech fared even worse: 46 percent opposed it while just 31 percent were in favor.

Hawley, meanwhile, took to Twitter to laud a victory over big tech, in popular opinion if not in legislation.