Most Americans Oppose Bans on Social Media Apps — Unless They’re Operated in Hostile Foreign Countries

Gen Zers are much less likely to back state or federal level restrictions on apps from countries or companies that are considered hostile to the U.S.
April 26, 2023 at 5:00 am UTC

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Earlier this month, Montana became the first state in the nation to pass a total ban on Chinese-owned TikTok, a move that came as the federal government continues to pursue a similar effort and as lawmakers and intelligence officials warn of potential national security concerns from apps based in countries considered adversarial to the United States.

Amid these moves, most Americans oppose bans on social media apps at the state and federal level, but are much more likely to back restrictions on apps that are owned by entities considered hostile to the United States, according to a new Morning Consult survey.

Fewer Than 3 in 10 Adults Back Federal, State Bans on Social Media Apps — but at Least Half Back Restrictions on Apps Hostile to United States

Shares of U.S. adults who support ...
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Survey conducted April 19-22, 2023, among a representative sample of 2,200 U.S. adults, with an unweighted margin of error of +/-2 percentage points.

Nearly 3 in 5 adults support state-level bans on apps from hostile foreign countries

  • Just over 1 in 4 Americans said they support laws in other states that ban residents from using a social media app or service, while nearly 3 in 10 would support a similar ban in the United States or one issued in the state where they live.
  • When asked if they would support a ban of an app that is owned by an entity that is considered hostile to America, support nearly doubles: About 3 in 5 adults would support state-level and federal bans on an app based in a country with an adversarial foreign government.
  • Half of adults would also back state-level actions against a U.S.-based app or service if the owners were deemed hostile to the United States.
  • Gen Zers — 74% of whom have a TikTok account, compared to 41% of all adults — are much less likely to back bans on foreign-based apps: Just over 1 in 3 would support state restrictions on apps from hostile countries, while over 2 in 5 would support a federal ban.

About 2 in 5 Gen Zers, Millennials Say They Would Consider Moving if Their State Banned an App They Regularly Use

The shares of U.S. adults who said they would or would not consider moving if the use of an app or service they use regularly was banned in their state
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Survey conducted April 19-22, 2023, among a representative sample of 2,200 U.S. adults, with an unweighted margin of error of +/-2 percentage points.

About 2 in 5 Gen Zers, millennials say they’d consider moving if their state banned a regularly used app

  • One in 4 adults said they would consider moving if the state they lived in issued a ban on an app that they regularly used.
  • Millennials were most likely to consider leaving a state over an app ban, with more than 2 in 5 saying they would consider moving, followed by Gen Zers at 38%.
  • People that have a TikTok account were also more likely than the general population to think about moving over a ban, with 37% saying they definitely or probably would consider it.

If apps are banned, public believes app stores should be on the hook for enforcement

Since Congress banned TikTok from being accessed on federal government devices and networks in late 2022, efforts to further restrict TikTok at the federal level have largely stalled. States have had more luck passing their own restrictions on access to the app, with more than half restricting access to the platform on government-issued devices, which most of the public supports. Montana is the first state to go so far as to try to ban the app outright within its borders.

Montana’s law proposes a $10,000 daily fine levied against any app store that allows users to download TikTok. Morning Consult found that if an app is banned, 56% of adults believe app stores should be held responsible for enforcing the restrictions, and 52% backed fines against app store operators caught allowing the use or download of the app or service.

Individuals in Montana who use TikTok won’t be penalized for doing so under the state’s law, but there is a surprising public appetite for fines against users: 45% of adults said they would back penalties against individual people caught using a banned app or service.

The April 19-22, 2023, survey was conducted among a representative sample of 2,200 U.S. adults, with an unweighted margin of error of +/-2 percentage points.

A headshot photograph of AJ Dellinger
AJ Dellinger
Data Reporter

AJ Dellinger previously worked at Morning Consult as a data reporter covering technology. 

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