Congress Is Trying To Ban TikTok. Younger Americans Don’t Like That.

Welcome to Pollapalooza, our weekly polling roundup.

The latest trend taking Congress by storm? A nationwide TikTok ban.

A congressional hearing went viral last week, as lawmakers from both parties grilled TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew for five hours over a range of issues, from how the app protects Americans’ data from being accessed by China to how it screens potentially harmful content from minors. Congress already banned TikTok from government devices in December, but lately it has seemed poised to go a step further. In early March, a bipartisan group of lawmakers introduced a bill that would allow the Biden administration to ban foreign companies it considers a national security risk (read: TikTok), and this week House Speaker Kevin McCarthy announced that the chamber would be advancing legislation to restrict the app. And it’s not just Congress that’s targeting the app — bills banning TikTok have been sweeping through state legislatures this year as well. 

Polling suggests the American public generally supports these proposals. A YouGov/Yahoo News poll conducted March 16-20 showed that a majority of American adults supported a nationwide ban on TikTok, with 53 percent in favor and 25 percent opposed. A Quinnipiac poll conducted March 9-13 found slightly more opposition (42 percent) but still a plurality (49 percent) in favor. While these polls didn’t ask about the specific bills that have been proposed in Congress, the general sentiment seems to favor a ban. 

Among younger Americans, though, these proposals are not very popular. According to a recent Washington Post poll, adults ages 18-34 are the most opposed to a nationwide ban on TikTok, with only 28 percent in favor, 40 percent against and 34 percent unsure. And in that Quinnipiac poll, 63 percent of adults in the same age range opposed a ban, almost the exact opposite of the 60 percent of adults age 65 and over who favored one. 

Young Americans might be so opposed to these bans because they use the app much more frequently than their older counterparts. As the only member of Gen Z at FiveThirtyEight, I naturally watched the live congressional hearing last week on TikTok. And it seems I’m far from alone among my generation in my use of the app: A SocialSphere poll from March 22 showed that 71 percent of Gen Zers have an active TikTok account, more than millennials, who landed at just 43 percent. 

It’s perhaps only natural that the Americans who use TikTok the most would be the most opposed to banning it. But that doesn’t mean young people aren’t worried about the security of the app. According to a CivicScience poll conducted March 9-13, 56 percent of adults ages 18-24 were either “very” or “somewhat” concerned about privacy risks associated with using TikTok. And in the SocialSphere survey, 61 percent of Gen Zers and millennials reported that they were concerned about TikTok being owned by a company with close ties to the Chinese government.

Some progressives have voiced concerns that these fears play into old tropes, with a few like Rep. Jamaal Bowman criticizing the bans as “fearmongering” and rooted in xenophobia against China. Opposition from some progressives might not be enough to derail a ban, though, as the bills introduced so far have enjoyed solid bipartisan support. In the meantime, if anyone knows of another place I can watch congressional hearings one second and get served funny dog videos the next, feel free to reach out; I might need to find an alternative pretty soon. 

Other polling bites 

  • Sad news for us data nerds: According to respondents of a recently released December YouGov poll, statistics was ranked the least interesting college major, with 42 percent of adults calling it “not interesting.” Criminal justice had the lowest percentage of respondents who called it “not interesting,” at just 18 percent. When respondents were asked which majors they would pick if they were pursuing a college degree today, a plurality (20 percent) chose computer science.
  • Baseball fans are happy with some of the new changes coming to the sport this season. According to a YouGov/Seton Hall Sports Poll conducted March 6-9, 45 percent of adults and 65 percent of MLB fans support the addition of a pitch clock to speed games up. Thanks largely to the pitch clock, spring-training games through mid-March were around 25 minutes shorter on average than all spring training games last year. 
  • Amid a record-breaking year of anti-LGBTQ legislation, much of which targets transgender individuals, 78 percent of transgender adults say that transitioning has made them happier than before, according to a recently released survey from the Washington Post and the Kaiser Family Foundation, conducted November-December 2022. Additionally, 64 percent of respondents said that they have been verbally attacked because of their gender identity or expression. Slightly more than half of respondents (53 percent) said that they had a happy childhood, much lower than the overall share of Americans (81 percent) who said the same.
  • As the COVID-19 pandemic recedes, the share of college students who have considered withdrawing from their program for at least one term in the past six months has increased to 41 percent, according to a recently released Gallup/Lumina Foundation poll, up from 34 percent in 2020. Fifty-five percent of students listed “emotional stress” as their reason for wanting to drop out, while just 14 percent cited COVID-19. Those numbers are flipped from 2020, when 46 percent of students listed COVID-19 as the reason and only 36 percent cited emotional stress. 

Biden approval

According to FiveThirtyEight’s presidential approval tracker, 42.6 percent of Americans approve of the job Biden is doing as president, while 53.3 percent disapprove (a net approval rating of -10.6 points). At this time last week, 42.7 percent approved and 52.8 percent disapproved (a net approval rating of -10.1 points). One month ago, Biden had an approval rating of 43.2 percent and a disapproval rating of 52.0 percent, for a net approval rating of -8.8 points.

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