It’s increasingly difficult to be a technology company these days. Stock prices and valuations are doing well. However, presidential tweets, congressional hearings, regulatory threats, and media skepticism have created uncertainty in the marketplace.
At the Charles Koch Institute, we are interested in understanding how and why cultures embrace innovation or reject it. We believe America’s unique optimistic cultural attitude toward innovation and innovators has enabled enormous benefits, including by making the United States a world leader in developing and adopting new technology.
Do the political threats toward tech companies indicate that American optimism about technology has waned? A recent survey suggests not. Americans still believe that technology firms—including the largest ones—provide significant benefits to them, to their families, and to society.
And they don’t want government touching what’s clearly working for them.
This new survey from NetChoice, a trade association comprised of eCommerce businesses and online consumers, found that Americans think federal policymakers should take a hands-off approach to regulating technology companies. Indeed, consumers believe their own dollars and spending habits will keep the industry in check and ensure robust competition that benefits American small businesses, communities, and families.
The survey of more than 1,200 Americans, conducted in early August 2018 by Zogby Analytics, also found nearly half of consumers (48 percent) think government regulation of the internet actually harms them. On the other hand, they believe technology companies provide significant benefits. Nearly three-quarters of the poll respondents said online applications allow them to stay in better touch with their community. The same portion also believe technology companies have enabled them to find and use small businesses they hadn’t known previously. (Thank you, Etsy and Amazon.)
Respondents also believe families should be in charge of how they use technology. For example, 85 percent of those surveyed said parents are best situated to decide what applications and programs their children get to use.
Americans also think their choices—what apps to use and where to spend dollars—ultimately will continue to drive innovation and disruption. Respondents told pollsters they don’t believe today’s most prominent tech companies will remain on top forever; in fact, only 16 percent said companies like Google and Facebook are impervious to competition and unable to be unseated by more innovative or enticing competitors. To illustrate: 43 percent of respondents said they’ve actually stopped using at least one social medial platform. That figure is even higher for digital natives; fifty-six percent of respondents between the ages of 18 and 24 said they’ve abandoned at least one social media tool.
As a result of these views, perhaps, only 10 percent of Americans said the government should prevent successful online businesses from acquiring other companies and 86 percent said government officials shouldn’t prevent tech companies from acquiring startups. And those digital natives are highly skeptical of government breaking up big tech companies—only 9 percent of those between the ages of 18 and 24 thought doing so would benefit consumers.
Bottomline: Americans remain optimistic about technology, want to make decisions for themselves, and believe that any effort by the government to regulate could actually do harm.