Survey: Majority of Americans Say Laws Must Change to Fit Tech

An evolving economy and cybersecurity concerns rank as chief priorities for many as President Trump takes office.

by / January 24, 2017

As technology continues to change life, most Americans believe their country must do a better job changing in response, a recent survey has shown.

The economy was of particular concern to those polled in the survey, released Jan. 23, with 56 percent saying that amid globalization, the United States’ laws and regulations should be more consistent with those of other countries. Also, 54 percent of respondents felt that those same laws and regulations, including education and corporate culture, must adapt to better fit modern American work circumstances. 

Cybersecurity was another prominent concern, with a scant 5 percent of those surveyed saying they believed existing laws were strong enough to protect individuals and businesses, while 54 percent actively advocated for stronger laws. There was discord over whether the country’s policies should favor privacy protection or security measures. Only 27 percent said the balance should skew more toward security, while 31 percent favored protecting privacy. 

Opinions were also varied in regards to the sharing economy, specifically growing companies like Uber and Airbnb, which challenge some existing regulations. Of those surveyed, 44 percent said laws should adapt to fit the companies, while 36 percent said companies should adapt to fit laws. Of millennials, only 25 percent thought Uber and Airbnb should be forced to change.

With regard to whether the United States should interfere with foreign countries that limit citizens' access to the Internet, 55 percent of respondents said no. When it came to trade, specifically whether U.S. politicians should support reducing barriers for digital trade, 43 percent of those surveyed were unsure. Of the 57 percent who had an opinion, a 4-to-1 margin favored support.

This survey release coincided with the 2017 State of the Net in Washington, D.C., a conference in which business and policy leaders discuss the year’s upcoming federal and state policy agendas. This conference is sponsored by the Internet Education Foundation. Tim Lordan, executive director of the organization, emphasized how important the event was this year.

“With a new president and new technologies challenging the status quo of economic laws and regulations, 2017 is shaping up as a critical policy year that will shape the future economy and issues of trade, privacy and security,” Lordan said in a release.   

This survey was conducted by Vrge Analytics on Jan. 18 and 19, and it polled more than 700 Americans. Tom Galvin, a partner at Vrge, stressed that a desire for change was a commonality among the respondents.

“Americans are looking for assurances that they will be protected, whether that’s in allowing them to work in new ways or from cyberthreats,” said Galvin. “Clearly they are looking for leaders to take a fresh look at laws and regulations to ensure they are in step with a modern economy and society.”