Election 2012 Voters: How They View the Internet


On election day, 2012, MDF commissioned an exit poll to investigate voter preferences about Internet policy issues. Freedman Consulting has released the following memo with the results of this work: 


A national poll commissioned by the Media Democracy Fund and conducted by Freedman Consulting, LLC, of 1,000 voters who participated in the November 2012 presidential election found that Americans see a crucial role for the Internet in society and want to defend a free and open Internet.(1) They worry about their privacy and see a role for government in protecting consumers on the Internet. In addition, they believe communities across the United States should have the right to build their own high-speed Internet networks, free from state interference.

Key findings from the poll include:

  • Americans Believe the Internet Is Important to Economic Growth: eight in ten voters polled say that the Internet and Internet companies like Google and Facebook play an important role in America’s future economic growth, with more than a third of voters (35 percent) saying it had a “very important role.” Just 13 percent say the Internet and Internet companies do not have an important role in future economic growth. Younger voters are most likely to see the Internet and the e-commerce sector as important to economic growth. About nine in ten (93 percent) poll respondents between the ages of 18 and 29 say there is an important role for this sector, with 41 percent believing the role is “very important.”
  • Strong Majority of Voters See Role for Government on the Internet: a strong majority (76 percent) of voters polled says they believe that government should have a role in protecting consumers on the Internet, with 19 percent saying it should be a big role and 57 percent favoring a limited role. Just one in five voters (21 percent) says government should play no role at all. Support for government protection of consumers on the Internet is strong, regardless of political affiliation. Eighty-one percent of Democrats, 68 percent of Republicans, and 80 percent of Independents believe there is a role for government in protecting consumers on the Internet.
  • Most Americans Worried About Privacy Online: most voters (84 percent) polled say they are concerned about their privacy on the Internet, including 48 percent who say they are “very concerned.” Just 15 percent say they are not concerned at all. Voters of all political parties share these fears: 83 percent of Independents, 84 percent of Democrats, and 85 percent of Republicans say they are concerned about their privacy on the Internet. A majority of Democrats (52 percent) say they are “very concerned,” compared to 45 percent of Republicans and 47 percent of Independents. Women are more intensely concerned about online privacy than men are: 52 percent of women said they were “very concerned,” compared to 43 percent of men.
  • Americans Back Network Neutrality: a substantial majority of voters (63 percent) support network neutrality, while just 17 percent oppose it. Support is strong among voters of all parties but is greatest among Independents, 71 percent of whom support network neutrality, compared to 62 percent of Republicans, and 60 percent of Democrats.
  • Voters Support Local Right to Build Broadband Networks: a substantial majority of voters (64 percent) say that cities should have the right to build their own high-speed Internet networks free from interference from states. Just 23 percent believe cities should not have this right. Majorities of voters in all political affiliations support local Internet self-determination, and support is roughly consistent across ideological lines. Almost two-thirds (65 percent) of liberals endorsed the right of cities to build their own broadband Internet networks, along with 64 percent of moderates and 66 percent of conservatives.

(1) These results are based on a national post-election survey among 1,000 registered voters who voted in the 2012 elections. The survey was fielded on November 6th and 7th, 2012. All interviews were conducted by professional interviewers via telephone. Interview selection was done at random within predetermined election units. These units were structured to statistically correlate with actual voter turnout in the 2012 presidential election. The accuracy of the sample is within +/- 3.1 percent at a 90 percent confidence interval. The work was commissioned by the Media Democracy Fund


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