More than half of U.S. voters want the Federal Communications Commission to butt out of regulating the Internet, according to a new Rasmussen Reports survey. Respondents not only believe that free-market competition offers Internet users more protection than government regulation but also fear that some will use such government regulation to push a political agenda.
Rasmussen’s Dec. 23 national telephone survey of 1,000 likely voters found that 54 percent oppose such regulation, and another 25 percent are not sure, while only 21 percent favor it.
The survey was conducted shortly after the FCC decided on a party line vote to impose so-called “net neutrality” regulations on the Internet world. Republicans and unaffiliated voters overwhelmingly oppose FCC regulation of the Web, while Democrats are divided more evenly. Those who use the Internet most are the most opposed to FCC regulations.
By a 52-to-27 percent margin, voters believe that more free market competition is better than more regulation to protect Web users. Republicans and unaffiliated voters overwhelmingly share this view, but 46 percent of Democrats think more regulation is the better approach.
The latest results are similar to earlier data showing little support for FCC regulation of the Internet.
Just over 55 percent of voters believe that the FCC would use its regulatory authority to promote a political agenda, while 28 percent believe the commission would regulate in an unbiased manner. The partisan divide is the same on this question as the others. A plurality of Democrats sees an unbiased regulatory approach, while most Republicans and unaffiliated voters fear a political agenda.
There is a huge gap between the political class and mainstream voters on the topic. Most mainstream voters see free-market competition as the best way to protect Internet users, but most in the political class prefer more regulation.
Nearly three-fourths of mainstream voters believe the regulations could be used to promote a political agenda, while 78 percent in the political class believe the regulations would be handled in an unbiased manner, the survey found.
The issue has attracted little public notice. Just 20 percent are following news of the net neutrality regulations very closely, and 35 percent say they’re following it somewhat closely.
Meanwhile, 55 percent continue to favor FCC regulation of radio and TV.
Almost 60 percent of voters say the government's most important role is to protect their individual rights. One-fourth believe a government’s primary purpose is to ensure fairness and social justice, while 10 percent say it's to manage the economy.
But nearly half of American adults see the government today as a threat to individual rights rather than a protector of those rights.
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