Majorities Think Some Online Companies Are Too Powerful Yet Americans are split regarding government intervention in these cases

NEW YORK, May 17, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- Certain online companies are becoming increasingly ubiquitous as they expand their businesses, acquire new products and develop new services.  When American adults were asked if they agree or disagree that some online companies, such as Google or Facebook, control too much of our personal information and know too much about our browsing habits, three quarters say that they agree (76%) with 36% strongly agreeing.  Only one in six disagree that these companies know and control too much (16%) and even fewer are not sure (8%).

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These are some of the findings of a recent Adweek/Harris Poll survey of 2,124 U.S. adults surveyed online between April 25 and 27, 2011 by Harris Interactive.

Additional findings include:

  • There is little difference in opinion by age—between 74% and 79% of all age groups agree that these companies have too much information and control.  Yet, older adults, aged 55 and older, are most likely to strongly agree (41%) and the youngest adults, aged 18-34, are least likely to feel this way (31%);
  • While majorities of both men and women agree that these companies control too much and have too much information about us, women are somewhat more likely to say this than men are (79% vs. 74%); and,
  • More affluent Americans are more likely to feel this way than are Americans who earn less—80% of those who earn $75K or more per year agree, compared to 70% of those who earn between $35 and $49.9K and 73% of those who earn less than $35K per year.

Yet, despite a large majority of Americans agreeing that these companies know and control too much, Americans are more likely to say they oppose government intervention to regulate large online companies like Google or Facebook (46%) rather than support it(36%) . Almost one in five are not at all sure (18%).

In terms of supporting government intervention there is little difference in opinion by age—between 32% and 39% of all age groups support regulation of these companies, yet older Americans are more likely than those younger to oppose government intervention.  Half of those 45-54 (53%) and 55 and older (49%) oppose it, compared to just two in five of those 35-44 (41%) and 18-34 (40%).  Men are more likely than women to have an opinion on this issue, with half (49%) opposing it.  Women, on the other hand, are more likely than men to be not sure (22% vs. 13%).

So What?

With the recent announcement that Microsoft would acquire Skype, one of the most prominent VOIP calling services, in a record-breaking $8.5 billion cash deal, the omnipotence of certain online companies has become even more evident.  And, it seems that control of so much information by these online companies makes Americans uncomfortable.  Yet, there is no consensus that government intervention is the answer.  Rather, it seems, Americans are torn, possibly between ideals of free enterprise, the products and services that they use and enjoy which these large businesses provide, and their trepidations about companies yielding so much information and power.  Either way it will be interesting to track reactions—if people embrace, or rather brace themselves against, these companies as they continue to grow and develop.  

TABLE 1
DO ONLINE COMPANIES CONTROL TOO MUCH?
"How strongly do you agree or disagree
that some online companies, such as Google or Facebook,
control too much of our personal information and know too much
about our browsing habits?"

Base: All U.S. adults


Total

Age

Gender

Income



18-34

35-44

45-54

55+

Male

Female

Less
than
$35K

$35K-$49.9K

$50K-$74.9K

$75K+


%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

Agree (NET)

76

74

76

76

79

74

79

73

70

79

80

    Strongly agree

36

31

37

36

41

38

35

32

34

42

34

    Somewhat agree

40

43

39

40

38

37

44

41

36

37

46

Disagree (NET)

16

17

13

16

16

18

14

17

21

16

15

    Somewhat disagree

11

13

11

11

9

13

9

11

16

11

12

    Strongly disagree

5

4

2

5

7

5

4

6

5

5

3

Not at all sure

8

9

11

8

5

8

8

10

9

5

5


Note: Percentages may not add to 100% due to rounding



TABLE 2
SUPPORT OR OPPOSE GOVERNMENT REGULATION OF LARGE ONLINE COMPANIES
"How strongly do you support or oppose government intervention to regulate large online companies like Google or Facebook?"

Base: All U.S. adults


Total

Gender

Age

Education

Male

Female

18-34

35-44

45-54

55+

H.S. or less

Some college

College grad +

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

Support (NET)

36

38

34

38

39

32

35

34

37

40

    Strongly support

9

10

8

9

6

8

10

9

9

8

    Somewhat support

27

28

27

29

34

24

25

25

27

32

Oppose (NET)

46

49

43

40

41

53

49

41

51

48

    Somewhat oppose

22

22

22

21

21

28

20

19

22

26

    Strongly oppose

24

26

22

19

21

26

29

22

29

22

Not at all sure

18

13

22

21

19

15

16

25

13

12


Note: Percentages may not add to 100% due to rounding



Methodology

This Adweek/Harris Poll was conducted online within the United States between April 25 and 27, 2011 among 2,124 adults (aged 18 and over). Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Where appropriate, this data were also weighted to reflect the composition of the adult online population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents' propensity to be online.

All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to multiple sources of error which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments. Therefore, Harris Interactive avoids the words "margin of error" as they are misleading. All that can be calculated are different possible sampling errors with different probabilities for pure, unweighted, random samples with 100% response rates. These are only theoretical because no published polls come close to this ideal.

Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Harris Interactive surveys. The data have been weighted to reflect the composition of the adult population. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in the Harris Interactive panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

These statements conform to the principles of disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

The results of this Harris Poll may not be used in advertising, marketing or promotion without the prior written permission of Harris Interactive.

The Harris Poll® #57, May 17, 2011

By Samantha Braverman, Sr. Project Researcher, Harris Interactive

About Harris Interactive

Harris Interactive is one of the world's leading custom market research firms, leveraging research, technology, and business acumen to transform relevant insight into actionable foresight. Known widely for the Harris Poll and for pioneering innovative research methodologies, Harris offers expertise in a wide range of industries including healthcare, technology, public affairs, energy, telecommunications, financial services, insurance, media, retail, restaurant, and consumer package goods. Serving clients in over 215 countries and territories through our North American, European, and Asian offices and a network of independent market research firms, Harris specializes in delivering research solutions that help us – and our clients – stay ahead of what's next. For more information, please visit www.harrisinteractive.com.

About Adweek

Adweek relaunched in April 2011 as a single news source covering the intersection of advertising, media, marketing and technology. The new Adweek unites all of these disciplines through the magazine's bold opinion pieces, enhanced data mining, trends, and behind-the-scenes coverage, as well as a freshly designed Adweek.com with breaking news all day, added video content, new columns and editorial franchises, social media integration and an editorial archive.  With celebrated columnist, book author, and commentator Michael Wolff at the helm as Editorial Director, Adweek will bring its journalistic prowess and integrity to subjects formerly covered by Adweek, Brandweek and Mediaweek.  Adweek will continue to provide experiential opportunities for the industry through conferences, events, honors, and awards.

Adweek is owned by Prometheus Global Media, a diversified company with leading assets in the media and entertainment arenas, including: Music (Billboard and its related conferences and events, including The Billboard Latin Music Awards), Entertainment (The Hollywood Reporter, Backstage, ShowEast, Cineasia, and CineEurope); and Advertising & Marketing (Adweek, Adweek Conferences and The CLIO Awards).

Press Contact:
Corporate Communications
Harris Interactive
212-539-9600
press@harrisinteractive.net

SOURCE Harris Interactive



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