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Americans Question How Neutral ‘Net Neutrality’ Really Is

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The Federal Communications Commission is expected soon to adopt new policies that will give it regulatory control over the Internet, although years of legislative and legal challenges are likely.

Most Americans approve of the FCC’s regulation of radio and TV, but just 21% think the FCC also should have the same regulatory power over the Internet. A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 53% of American Adults oppose the FCC regulating the Internet like it does radio and television.

Findings for both sides are down several points from November but are more in line with surveying since December 2010 when some members of the FCC began pushing “net neutrality” efforts to stop some companies from offering higher downloading speeds to preferred customers. A sizable 25% now are not sure. (To see survey question wording, click here.)

Most (51%) also continue to believe the best way to protect those who use the Internet is more free market competition rather than more government regulation. Twenty-four percent (24%) say more regulation is the best way to go, but just as many (25%) are undecided.

Sixty-eight percent (68%) remain concerned that if the FCC gains regulatory control over the Internet, it will lead to government efforts to control online content or promote a political agenda. Twenty-seven percent (27%) don’t share that concern. This includes 41% who are Very Concerned about government interference in the Internet and just 11% who are Not At All Concerned. This level of concern is unchanged from November.

Nearly half (48%) of Americans also worry that FCC regulations on the Internet will hurt e-commerce. Only 16% believe they will help online business activity instead. Thirteen percent (13%) say increased federal regulation will have no impact, but 24% aren’t sure.

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The national survey of 800 Adults was conducted on February 9-10, 2015 by Rasmussen Reports. The margin of sampling error is +/- 3.5 percentage points with a 95% level of confidence. Field work for all Rasmussen Reports surveys is conducted by Pulse Opinion Research, LLC. See methodology.

This past Christmas season, 78% of Americans planned to do at least some of their holiday gift shopping online.

Regular Internet users are more strongly opposed to FCC control than those who seldom or never go online. They also believe more strongly that free market competition is the best way to protect those who use the Internet.

Most adults in nearly every demographic category are concerned that FCC regulation will lead to government efforts to control online content or promote a political agenda. But those under 40 are less concerned than their elders.

Republicans are twice as likely as Democrats to be Very Concerned about the threat of government efforts to control Internet content or promote an agenda. Those not affiliated with either major party are only slightly less worried about this possibility.

Roughly 60% of Republicans and unaffiliateds oppose FCC regulation of the Internet like TV and radio. Democrats share that view but by a narrower 43% to 26% margin. Fifty-nine percent (59%) of Republicans and 58% of unaffiliated Americans think FCC regulations will hurt e-commerce. Just 27% of Democrats agree.

Not surprisingly, those who oppose FCC regulation of the Internet believe much more strongly that it will hurt e-commerce and could lead to political abuse.

Last year at this time, following a public outcry, the FCC backed off a plan to determine if the news media is meeting the public’s “critical information needs.” Voters strongly believe news content is none of the federal government’s business.

Fifty-four percent (54%) consider the federal government today a threat to individual liberty rather than a protector. Just 22% see the government as a protector of their individual rights.

Thirty-three percent (33%) of all Americans get most of their news from the Internet, including 51% of those under 40.

The Internet is also the research option of choice for most now.

Additional information from this survey and a full demographic breakdown are available to Platinum Members only.

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