Net Neutrality 2022

Three-in-Four Voters Favor Reinstating Net Neutrality in Public Consultation Survey

A new public consultation survey has found that a large, bipartisan majority of Americans (73%) support reinstating net neutrality, including 82% of Democrats, 65% of Republicans, and 68% of Independents. 

The online survey of 2,702 registered voters was conducted by the Program for Public Consultation at the University of Maryland (PPC).

Respondents were given a short briefing on the 2015 “net neutrality” regulations on internet service providers (ISPs) that were put in place by the Federal Communication Commission, and asked to evaluate arguments for and against reinstating such rules. The survey content was reviewed by experts on different sides of the issue, to ensure that the briefing was accurate and balanced, and that the strongest arguments were presented.

To introduce the topic, respondents were informed that the net neutrality regulations prohibited ISPs from:

  • Creating an internet “fast lane” with faster download speeds for users of websites and applications that pay more
  • Providing faster speeds to the ISP’s own applications
  • Blocking or slowing down specific websites or applications

“In our third study on the topic, we continue to find overwhelming bipartisan support for net neutrality,” said Steven Kull, Director of PPC. 

Kull added, “Our public consultation method that gives respondents a briefing on the issue and has them evaluate pro and con arguments is particularly useful for eliciting their values and priorities in relation to complex or unfamiliar topics.”  

The arguments in favor of reinstating net neutrality were found convincing by substantially more respondents than those against, overall, and among both Republicans and Democrats.

The first argument in favor of reinstating net neutrality stated that since net neutrality’s repeal, ISPs have taken advantage of consumers by slowing down internet speeds and requiring higher fees to reinstate them. It was found convincing by a bipartisan eight-in-ten (Republicans 74%, Democrats 86%). The next argument, in opposition to reinstating net neutrality, countered that net neutrality regulations stifle innovation, impede the development of infrastructure, and result in slower download speeds. Just four-in-ten found this convincing, including 46% of Republicans and 31% of Democrats

An argument against reinstating net neutrality stated that “concerns about the repeal of net neutrality have been overblown” because the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is required to publicly report anti-competitive behavior. Just half found this convincing, although a majority of Republicans did (57%). The last argument countered that the FTC has no power to police the major ISPs, which dominate the market and provide consumers with little to no choice. A bipartisan two-thirds found this convincing, including 62% of Republicans and 74% of Democrats.

Support for net neutrality, while very high now, is a bit lower than in 2017 and 2018 when net neutrality was in place and PPC asked voters about repealing it (83% and 86% respectively).  This drop may be due to what social scientists call a “status quo bias,” which is a general tendency to favor the status quo.

The survey was conducted online from Jan. 27 – Feb. 28, 2022, with a national probability-based sample of 2,702 registered voters, provided by Nielsen Scarborough’s sample of respondents, who were recruited by mail and telephone using a random sample of households. The margin of error was +/- 1.9%.

What are Public Consultation Surveys? Public consultations seek to improve democratic governance by consulting citizens on key public policy issues. Conducted online with representative samples, citizens are taken through a policymaking simulation that puts them in the shoes of a policymaker. They are presented a briefing, evaluate pro and con arguments and then are asked to make their policy recommendations. Policymaking simulations are reviewed for accuracy and balance by experts on different sides of the issue.

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