US Consumers Feel That Targeted Online Political Ads Should be Regulated to Some Degree

March 31, 2020

GallupKnightFoundation Regulation of Online Political Ads Mar2020With this year’s US presidential election approaching, US consumers are being exposed to political ads wherever they turn, including online. And, as online targeting methods improve, making it possible for political advertisers to narrow in on the audience they most want to reach, questions surround ethical targeting practices. Here’s what Americans said in a recent survey from Gallup in partnership with the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

Earlier estimates indicate that $6 billion will be spent on federal political advertising this election year, with one-fifth of that going towards online advertising. With more than $1 billion in advertising dollars available for the taking, internet companies are finding it difficult to draw a line when it comes to political advertising, in general, and, more specifically, supplying user data to campaigns.

That said, the majority of US adults do not find that line a difficult one to draw. With the 2016 election controversy of Cambridge Analytica and Facebook still looming in the background, 72% of the more than 1,600 US adults surveyed said that internet companies should not make any user information available to advertisers for targeting purposes and that ads should be shown to anyone who uses the website or app without regards to their background characteristics. Another one-fifth (20% share) say that user information provided should be broad only, including information such as a person’s gender, age or zip code.

On the flip side, only 7% say that internet companies should provide any information available to campaigns, including a person’s interests, frequently visited websites, and search topics.

Furthermore, six in 10 (59% share) respondents go so far to say that websites should be required to disclose who paid for the political campaign ad, how much it cost and who the ad is aimed at. And, while 20% share of US adults say that no political ads should be shown on the internet at any time, around 1 in 6 (16% share) hold firm that online political campaign ads should not be regulated because they are a form of free speech.

For more details, visit Gallup’s findings here.

About the Data: Findings are based on a survey of 1,628 US adults (18+), fielded in December 2019.

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