On the eve of a pivotal vote that would deregulate the broadband industry, a fresh survey from the University of Maryland shows that large majorities of Americans — including 3 out of 4 Republicans — oppose the government’s plan to repeal its net neutrality rules for Internet providers.
The results paint the picture of an electorate that is largely at odds with the GOP-led Federal Communications Commission, whose chairman, Ajit Pai, plans to vote Thursday to lift key rules for companies such as AT&T, Comcast and Verizon. The move would permit such companies to speed up some websites, and slow down or block others, as Internet providers seek new business models in a rapidly changing media and technology environment.
The survey by the university’s Program for Public Consultation and Voice of the People, a nonpartisan polling organization, concluded that 83 percent of Americans do not approve of the FCC proposal. Just 16 percent said they approved.
Americans in the survey were far less likely to find the FCC’s arguments for repeal persuasive, and far more likely to agree with arguments for keeping the regulations. While 48 percent said they found the government’s case convincing, 75 percent said they found the contrasting arguments of consumer groups and tech companies convincing.
About one in five Republicans said they were in favor of the FCC’s proposal.
The PPC survey highlights a significant consensus between members of both political parties at a time when much of the country is divided on other social and economic issues. It also differs from previous polling on the subject of net neutrality in methodology and approach.
Unlike polls that solicit respondents over the Internet on an opt-in basis — a tactic that polling experts say is problematic because the resulting sample can be unscientific — PPC relied on a focus group of respondents that had been assembled randomly using traditional mail and telephone techniques by the market research firm Nielsen Scarborough.
In addition, rather than asking survey-takers their opinion on net neutrality without much prior context or by phrasing the questions in ways that could affect the results, PPC prepared respondents ahead of time with a policy briefing laying out the case from both sides of the debate. The survey content was reviewed by experts in favor and against the net neutrality rules, including by a government official who represented the administration’s position, according to Steven Kull, PPC’s director.