Bulk of Consumers Continue to Back Antitrust Cases Against Big Tech

Big tech companies are facing a flurry of antitrust suits and regulatory actions, and the generative artificial intelligence sector may be next, writes tech analyst Jordan Marlatt
Unsplash / Morning Consult artwork by Anna Davis
November 29, 2023 at 5:00 am UTC

Key Takeaways

  • As big tech companies face their toughest legal challenges in years, consumers are more likely to support than oppose breaking up big tech companies into smaller ones, while 3 in 5 agree that they have too much influence over the economy and politics.

  • People largely support regulation of the issues underpinning antitrust cases against big tech companies, such as setting caps on app store fees, which may spur politicians and regulators to set new rules curbing tech’s power even if the challenges in court don’t succeed.

  • The next legal battleground is likely to be artificial intelligence, since support for more regulation of the burgeoning industry surpassed support for boosting regulation of major tech and social media companies. While regulation would likely slow the future pace of innovation in this space, leaving AI to grow unfettered may pose even larger societal risks.

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The tech industry is facing some of its strongest regulatory scrutiny in years as the government goes after the biggest names in tech in a series of high-profile antitrust cases. The U.S government is suing Amazon, Microsoft, Meta, and Google, and reportedly considering going after Apple next year, while the sector has also faced a series of private antitrust lawsuits such as Epic’s cases against Apple and Google.

Earlier this year, Morning Consult reported that antitrust challenges against big tech companies are popular among Americans, regardless of party. That support hasn’t budged, with U.S. adults still more likely to support (45%) than oppose (23%) breaking big tech companies into smaller ones. 

People see tech’s impact as positive, but feel they have too much economic and political power

A majority of people say they have a favorable opinion of major tech companies (55%) and a similar share trust them to do the right thing (53%), though these numbers have declined since the beginning of the year. And majorities of respondents, Democrats in particular, agreed that major tech companies are job creators (despite waves of layoffs), drive innovation and keep the United States competitive.

People Agree Tech Gives the U.S. an Edge, but Say Industry Has Too Much Power

Shares who said they agree with the following statements:
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Survey conducted Nov. 3-5, 2023, among a representative sample of 2,202 U.S. adults, with an unweighted margin of error of +/-2 percentage points.

The desire to rein in the size of these big tech companies is not necessarily rooted in disdain or distrust in the tech sector, but stems from worries about its influence over politics and the economy. Over 3 in 5 U.S. adults agree that major tech companies have too much influence over politics, and an identical share say the same about their influence over the economy. When considering that the six most valuable U.S. companies by market cap are tech companies, and that five big tech companies spent nearly $69 million combined on government lobbying in 2022, these perceptions are not too surprising.

Consumers support antitrust cases and their underpinning issues

Among the high-profile cases big tech companies are facing this year, Google’s has been one of the most visible. In October, the Department of Justice's lawsuit alleging that Google was blocking out search competition through exclusive deals with companies to be the default search provider went to trial. At the time of writing, that trial, which 34% of respondents said they’d seen, read or heard at least something about, is still ongoing but expected to wrap up in the next couple of weeks. The same share of people said they are also aware of the FTC’s lawsuit against Amazon alleging that the company blocked out competition in the online retail market, which was announced in September and has not gone to trial yet.

Google, Amazon Antitrust Cases Have Gotten the Most Attention

Share of U.S. adults who have seen, read or heard “a lot” or “some” about the following:
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Survey conducted Nov. 3-5, 2023, among a representative sample of 2,202 U.S. adults, with an unweighted margin of error of +/-2 percentage points.

Beyond awareness, these cases against big tech companies have a notable amount of public support, and, more importantly, so do the issues underpinning them. 

People are twice as likely to support (44%) than they are to oppose (22%) the DOJ’s suit against Google, and a similar share said they support barring companies from making exclusive agreements with manufacturers to become the default service on their devices. People are also more likely to support than oppose Epic Games’ suit against Apple (though a plurality of respondents are undecided on the issue) over the fees they charge for transactions through their app store, and a slim majority support imposing a cap on fees that companies can charge to developers who publish apps on their app stores (51%).

Specific demographics at scale: Surveying thousands of consumers around the world every day powers our ability to examine and analyze perceptions and habits of more specific demographics at scale, like those featured here.

Why it matters: Leaders need a better understanding of their audiences when making key decisions. Our comprehensive approach to understanding audience profiles complements the “who” of demographics and the “what” of behavioral data with critical insights and analysis on the “why.”

Though antitrust cases are tried in courts of law, and the court of public opinion is not strictly consequential, the public attention these cases are bringing to the issues underpinning them may prompt regulators and lawmakers to impose further restrictions on what tech companies can and cannot do. Many of these potential laws have already been drafted, such as in the proposed American Innovation and Choice Online Act, which about a quarter of U.S. adults (23%) said they are aware of.

AI companies could be next

This year kicked off a regulatory reckoning for big tech companies that will likely persist into the next few years as legal battles draw on, but there’s an entirely new fight on the horizon. Generative AI has taken the tech industry by storm, and consumers are paying attention to these new applications, expressing their awareness, interest and concerns about the technology. Already, a majority of U.S. adults support additional regulation of AI companies (51%), more than the share who back it for major technology companies (37%) and social media companies (45%). This share has also grown substantially from April.

People More Likely to Support Increased Regulation for AI Companies Than for Big Tech, Social Media

Share who support additional government regulation of the following:
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Surveys conducted from April to October 2023, among representative samples of roughly 2,200 U.S. adults each, with an unweighted margin of error of +/-2 percentage points.

Despite being a relatively new sector under the broader tech industry umbrella, generative AI is already attracting a massive amount of regulatory scrutiny in the United States and abroad. 

Earlier in the year, Morning Consult data showed bipartisan support for a wide array of specific regulations of the technology in the United States. Since then, the White House has issued two sets of voluntary guidelines for AI companies to follow in order to hopefully develop the technology responsibly, while the European Union passed a draft law that would regulate scenarios in which AI technologies can be used, and U.S. President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping recently discussed AI’s use in military and nuclear applications. With the 2024 presidential election looming, the potential for generative AI to be used to spread false narratives will likely be very apparent. Already, generative AI is being used in elections abroad in advertisements, heralding what may come to pass in the United States.

Beyond the strong likelihood that specific use cases of AI will become regulated, consolidation in the burgeoning industry may become a point of focus as well. Competitors in the space include giants such as Google, Amazon, Meta, Microsoft and Adobe. And 39% of U.S. adults already support breaking up AI companies into smaller ones (24% oppose). 

Tech giants and soon-to-be AI giants are poised to face a challenging few years, tasked with igniting excitement about the future of tech and innovation while also battling regulatory hurdles and strong public concerns about their size and influence.

A headshot photograph of Jordan Marlatt
Jordan Marlatt
Lead Tech Analyst

Jordan Marlatt previously worked at Morning Consult as a lead tech analyst.

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