TikTok Ban Divides Young and Old, Democrats and Republicans, WSJ Poll Finds | Mint

TikTok Ban Divides Young and Old, Democrats and Republicans, WSJ Poll Finds

FILE PHOTO: Children playground miniatures are seen in front of displayed TikTok logo in this illustration taken April 4, 2023. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo (REUTERS)
FILE PHOTO: Children playground miniatures are seen in front of displayed TikTok logo in this illustration taken April 4, 2023. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo (REUTERS)

Summary

  • Majority of GOP voters support banning Chinese-owned app, compared with 33% of Democrats

Nearly half of U.S. voters support banning the Chinese-owned TikTok video app, according to a new Wall Street Journal poll, but there are sharp divisions along partisan, age and even racial lines.

Most voters view the app as a national-security risk and favor forcing its sale to non-Chinese owners, the poll found. But younger voters and Democrats are far less likely to support a ban than older voters and Republicans.

Overall, 46% of respondents support a nationwide ban and 35% oppose it. By party, 62% of Republicans favor a ban on TikTok, while just 33% of Democrats do. By age group, 59% of people age 65 and over favor banning TikTok, while 37% of those 18-34 favor a ban, with 48% opposing.

The findings reflect TikTok’s user base—most of whom are under 30, an age group that typically favors Democrats by wide margins.

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WSJ

Nearly half of white voters, or 48%, favor a ban, as do 42% of Hispanic voters. But just 35% of Black voters say they support banning the app.

Overall, the poll points to an electorate that is still making up its mind about the risks around the Chinese-owned app, said pollster Tony Fabrizio, whose firm conducted the Journal survey along with that of pollster John Anzalone.

While a majority thinks the app poses a security risk, so far “it’s kind of a soft sense," Mr. Fabrizio said. He noted that only one-third of respondents view it as a major risk, while another quarter view it as a minor risk.

However, a significant chunk of the electorate—around 25%—hasn’t made up its mind yet. Uncertainty was particularly high among Democrats and independents. That means “there’s room for that narrative to grow," Mr. Fabrizio said.

The U.S. contends that TikTok, owned by Beijing-based ByteDance Ltd., poses a threat because China’s authoritarian government could demand access to data on U.S. users and influence content on the app. The Biden administration has raised the prospect of a ban if the ownership remains in Chinese hands, but any effort to do so would face legal challenges on First Amendment and other grounds.

TikTok, which says it is implementing a $1.5 billion plan to secure its data, didn’t respond to a request for comment on the poll results.

The poll of 1,500 voters was conducted April 11-17 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.5 percentage points.

Support for a ban is driven heavily by the 58% of voters who say they have never used TikTok, the survey found. Among that group, 57% support banning the app from operating in the U.S.

By contrast, only 12% of people who use the app weekly or more favor a ban. People who say they have tried that app but use it less than weekly held views that aligned with the nonusers, with 48% favoring a ban.

Most respondents—56%—said the app poses at least some risk, and 52% would favor a sale to U.S. owners. But fully one quarter aren’t sure yet whether it poses a risk.

Spurred by national-security concerns over TikTok and other apps controlled by companies based in China and other potentially hostile countries, a number of lawmakers recently have offered proposals to ban or restrict foreign apps.

The Biden administration has thrown its support behind a bill offered by Sens. Mark Warner (D., Va.) and John Thune (R., S.D.) that would shore up the president’s legal authority to ban or restrict risky apps. The bill builds on executive orders issued by former President Donald Trump and President Biden. It could lead to a ban or other restrictions on TikTok.

In a statement to the Journalon Friday, the two senators underscored the need for their new legislation, which has run into some headwinds from the left and the right.

“TikTok is a national security threat, but it isn’t the only threat posed by foreign adversary technology," they said. “Our country needs a rules-based process to identify and mitigate these foreign threats while providing as much information as possible to the American people about the threats that these applications present."

Security concerns about TikTok have proved difficult to address for legal and political reasons. A Trump administration move to force a sale of TikTok in 2020 was blocked by the courts on grounds that it violated TikTok’s rights under U.S. law.

Meanwhile, the platform’s user base in the U.S. has grown recently to 150 million, according to TikTok, making its popularity another hurdle for critics.

In addition, Democratic strategists have come to view TikTok as a valuable campaign tool for reaching younger voters, further complicating the political equation for critics in Washington who view TikTok as a national-security threat.

Participants in the WSJ poll often said they have concerns about national-security risks from the app.

“From what I’ve heard from news media, I think it has potential to be a threat," said Charles Sikes of Greensboro, N.C. He said he supports state and local efforts to ban it from government devices. “I don’t have any problem with it being banned on a national basis either," he added.

Others were skeptical.

“I think it’s been sensationalized," said Kenneth Staup of Blissfield, Mich.

Even some who worry about TikTok’s national-security risks stop short of supporting a nationwide ban.

“The American people have to wake up and smell the coffee," said Eugene Giacomini, who lives in New York. “It being from China, I’m suspicious."

But he added, “I don’t like the government banning anything—this isn’t communist China."

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