By Todd Spangler
March 31, 2023
About half of Americans are in favor of the U.S. government banning TikTok, the hugely popular video app owned by China-based internet giant ByteDance.
Amid intensifying scrutiny of and antagonism toward TikTok, a newly released survey by Pew Research Center found that 50% of Americans support a U.S. government ban on the app, with 22% opposed and a sizable share (28%) unsure, according to a newly released survey conducted by Pew Research Center. Among those who actually use TikTok, just 19% support a ban. Given TikTok’s popularity among teens, it’s worth noting that Pew’s survey was fielded among U.S. adults (those 18 and older).
Americans who are aware that TikTok is owned by the ByteDance are particularly likely to support banning it: About 60% of those surveyed who know TikTok’s parent company is based in China support the U.S. government banning the app, compared with 27% of those who are unaware of TikTok’s Chinese ties, according to the Pew survey.
Last week, TikTok CEO Shou Chew attempted damage control during his marathon appearance before last week’s House committee hearing. But that was widely seen as catalyzing American politicos’ hostility toward the app and its Chinese ties — among both Democrats and Republicans. Analysts said the odds of the U.S. government imposing a ban on TikTok, unless ByteDance sells its interest in the app, increased in the wake of Chew’s grilling by American lawmakers. The Chinese government has said it will oppose any forced sale of TikTok.
The biggest beneficiaries of a TikTok U.S. ban would be YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat, according to analysts. Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg has identified TikTok as a major competitor, and the company has aggressively pushed its TikTok-style video feature Reels across Instagram and Facebook. Last year, Meta confirmed that it had funded a campaign to secretly plant negative opinion pieces about TikTok in U.S. news outlets portraying TikTok as a threat to children.
Per the Pew study, support for a government ban on TikTok is higher among Republicans and independents who lean toward the Republican Party than among Democrats and Democratic leaners (60% vs. 43%) — with particularly high support among conservative Republicans (70%). Among Democrats, those who identify as conservatives or moderates are more supportive of a ban (49%) than liberals (36%).
Meanwhile, older Americans are much more supportive of banning the platform than younger ones: 71% of those 65 and older support it, compared with 54% of those ages 50-64 and fewer than half of adults under 50. Those under 30 are the only age group in which more people oppose banning the platform (46%) than support it (29%).
Pew’s survey found that Americans have limited confidence in American social media companies but are even more wary of Chinese social media companies. About 88% said they have little or no confidence in Chinese social media companies to adhere to their privacy policies and a large majority (87%) also don’t believe that Chinese social media companies will use their personal information in ways that they feel comfortable with. Similarly, large shares of Americans also have little or no confidence in American social media companies to follow privacy policies (75%) or to use their personal information in ways they feel comfortable with (78%).
The findings are based on a survey of 3,576 U.S. adults, conducted March 20-26, 2023, using Pew’s American Trends Panel. The margin of error for the full sample is +/- two percentage points.