TikTok Ban is Supported by Americans Across Party Lines but Opposed by Gen Z

A new study from The Weber Shandwick Collective (TWSC) finds that despite broad-based political support for the bill signed into law last month to ban TikTok from the U.S., members of Gen Z feel differently – and are significantly more likely to take action. 

In general, Americans are aligned politically in support of the TikTok ban, with nearly two-thirds of those surveyed across party lines believing that the ban comes from legitimate concern that the Chinese government could use TikTok data to spy on individual Americans.

But adults ages 18-27, who are over twice as likely to use TikTok as their counterparts in other generations and make up nearly one-fifth of the voting population, are significantly more likely to believe the ban comes from a desire to limit free speech or competition, and four times as likely to take part in protest activity around the ban.

“This research gives a snapshot on a significant voting bloc during an election year – what they’re thinking and how they’ll engage,” said John Files, co-lead of North America Public Affairs for TWSC. “Against the backdrop of increased activism on campus and in corporations, and challenges from both parties in securing support from young voters, the findings offer a view into a generation that communicates differently, thinks differently and is generally less trusting of institutions.”

The study finds:

  • Gen Z doesn’t trust Congress’s motivations for the ban. When asked about congressional rationale for the ban, members of Gen Z are significantly less likely to believe that the ban comes from legitimate national security concerns (39% vs. 59%) and three times as likely to say that the ban comes from a lack of understanding of the technology (13% vs. 5%).
  • Younger generations are significantly more likely to say the ban is intended to limit their First Amendment rights. Those surveyed from Gen Z are nearly twice as likely as their counterparts in other generations to say that the TikTok ban comes from a desire to limit freedom of speech (21% for Gen Z vs. 13% for non-Gen Z). Ninety-one percent (91%) say that they agree or strongly agree that the ban conflicts with freedom of speech ideals. 
  • Members of Gen Z are likely to raise their voices to share their thoughts on the topic. Over half of Gen Z respondents say they’ll take some form of advocacy action as a result of the ban. Gen Z is twice as likely to say they’ll voice their opinion on the TikTok ban at political events, rallies, speeches and other local events to raise awareness (18% vs. 9%) and nearly four times as likely to participate in a local protest (15% vs. 4%). 

In contrast, the general American public is broadly aligned across party lines in support of the TikTok ban. The study finds that:

  • Republicans and Democrats largely agree on legitimate rationale for the TikTok ban.  Sixty-one percent (61%) of Republicans and 60% of Democrats agree that Congress’ rationale for the ban was concern that the Chinese government could use TikTok data to spy on individual Americans.
  • Few across party lines believe that Congress is trying to limit competition or freedom of speech. A minority of individuals in both parties believe that Congress is trying to limit competition for U.S. companies (16% of Republicans and 18% of Democrats) and an even smaller minority across party lines believes that Congress intended to limit freedom of speech (13% of Republicans and 15% of Democrats).
  • Across party lines, very few intend to take direct political action in an election year to advocate against the ban. These actions include writing or calling their congressperson (11% of Republicans and 13% of Democrats), voicing their opinion at political rallies (10% of both parties) and participating in protest activity (5% of Republicans and 6% of Democrats).

Eight in 10 (78%) of those surveyed from Gen Z use TikTok each week, compared to six in 10 (62%) of Millennials, a third of Gen X (33%) and one-fifth (19%) of Baby Boomers.

“This election year, everything is political and everything is public,” said Meghann Curtis, co-lead of North America Public Affairs for TWSC. “For Gen Z, TikTok – the medium – is now the message. This data holds important implications for the use of the platform by campaigns, causes and corporations – all of which will be looked at under a microscope this cycle.” 

Read the full report here.

KRC Research, the research division of TWSC, conducted this national survey from May 1 to May 3, 2024 among a representative sample of n=1,007 U.S. adults 18 years of age and older.

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