A resounding 72% of Americans say internet companies should not release any data about users to political campaigns wanting to target voters with ads.
The view is roughly shared regardless of a person’s political allegiance, researchers for the study carried out by Gallup and the Knight Foundation.
However, one in five of adults polled said they were in favour of allowing campaigns to have limited and broad details about internet users, such as a person’s gender, age and zip code. Revealing this limited information coincides with Google’s current policy.
A tiny 7% of people backed the idea that there should be no restrictions on what data is available to political campaigners, a view that is in line with targeting policies at Facebook, Gallup says. Although Facebook does give users some ability to dictate how many ads they see.
The study showed Americans to be well aware that websites track user data, with almost all of those asked saying they believe Facebook and Google track them (97%), along with Amazon (96%). Slightly fewer (88%) also believe news sites or apps collect data on browsing history and what they buy.
When asked to choose between different approaches to political advertising, most people surveyed (59%) favoured websites showing ads, so long as it was clear who had paid for them, how much had been spent and who the ad was aimed at.
But 20% of people took a very different view, believing no political ads should be shown on sites at all, and a further 4% said political ads should be banned from sites in the last month of a campaign. At the other end of the spectrum, 16% of people said there should be no restrictions on political ads whatsoever as they were part of the right to free speech.
There was strong agreement, however, on misinformation, with a majority of those polled saying social media companies should ban outright lies in political ads, such things as providing the wrong date for an election (81%) or stating a political candidate had voted for a policy that in reality they had not voted for (62%).
Gallup/Knight Foundation; additional content by WARC staff