Most Americans oppose monopolies and support antitrust laws

Most Americans oppose monopolies and support antitrust laws

This year, the FTC has stepped up its enforcement of antitrust laws, filing major lawsuits against companies including Amazon, Google, and Meta. Recent YouGov polls find that most Americans support antitrust laws and believe penalties for violating them should be toughened. The vast majority of them hold negative views of monopolies, and while most believe there is at least some competition within American industries, more than a third believe that is not enough. Americans are more likely to believe that stricter antitrust enforcement would help rather than hurt the US economy – and the same applies to views about the effects of stricter enforcement on consumers, workers, and small businesses. On the other hand, large companies are more likely to be seen as harmed by such laws rather than helped.

When asked broadly, most Americans (67%) said it is bad for one company to dominate a market; Only 6% say it’s good, 16% say neutral, and 11% aren’t sure.

Americans generally view small businesses as superior to larger corporations when it comes to their ethics, treatment of their employees, quality of their products, and impact on the environment. However, when it comes to consumer prices, Americans say that larger companies charge less than small businesses by a two-to-one margin.

While most Americans (65%) say there is at least some competition between companies within US industries, only 23% say there is “a lot” of competition. How much competition they think there is depends on the industry.

Some of the 10 industries asked are viewed as highly competitive, particularly the restaurant industry (56% say it has a lot of competition) and the retail industry (47%). Others, such as the pharmaceutical industry (26%) and the oil and gas industry (25%), are less likely to be viewed as very competitive. Despite recent antitrust cases involving tech companies, many Americans say the tech industry is highly competitive (38%), although somewhat fewer say the same about the social media industry specifically (27%) %).

Most Americans (69%) strongly or somewhat support antitrust laws, which are defined in the survey as “government business regulations intended to prevent monopolies and ensure fair competition among businesses.” Only 9% strongly or somewhat oppose antitrust laws. While the highest percentage of Democrats (83%) support antitrust laws, a majority of Republicans (62%) and independents (60%) also support them.

While one in three Americans are unsure whether antitrust laws are too strict or not strict enough, people who have an opinion are more likely to say current laws are too lenient. A total of 36% of Americans say the laws are not strict enough, while 24% say they are right and 6% say they are too strict.

There is greater consensus on the effects of stricter antitrust enforcement, with nearly half of Americans believing that greater enforcement would help consumers, small businesses, workers, and the US economy as a whole. Far fewer say that more enforcement would hurt each of these. More Americans say stricter enforcement would hurt big businesses rather than help them.

The standards and interpretations of antitrust law have changed at different points in US history. When the first federal antitrust law was passed in 1890, regulators focused primarily on how company behaviors affected the amount of competition within industries. During the late twentieth century, the focus shifted to effects on consumer welfare, especially short-run effects on consumer prices. But more recently, FTC Chairwoman Lina Khan has pushed back against the consumer welfare standard and suggested a return to previous approaches that focused more broadly on competition, as well as other factors, such as innovation, the labor market, and long-term investments. the prices.

To understand the criteria Americans believe the government should use in deciding which antitrust cases to take, the survey asked whether there are eight factors that should be primary considerations, secondary considerations, or should not be taken into account. Among these, Americans are most likely to say that long-term consumer prices (48%) and the quality of goods and services (42%) should be key considerations in antitrust enforcement decisions. Slightly fewer say implementation should focus largely on impacts on small businesses (39%), the labor market (38%), the amount of competition (38%), or the diversity of consumer choices (36%). Americans are less likely to say that much attention should be paid to short-term impacts on consumer prices (31%) or innovation (28%). For each, nearly two-thirds say it should be a major or somewhat consideration, and no more than 12% say it should not be a consideration at all.

The poll also asked Americans to what extent they agreed or disagreed with six statements about markets and competition. About two-thirds strongly or somewhat agree that “capitalism needs competition to succeed” (70%), and a similar percentage believes that “no company should be too big to fail” (67%). Nearly half (46%) believe “the government should break up big tech companies.” Smaller stocks agree with the ideas that “regulation hurts economic growth” (39%) or that “free markets will naturally correct monopolistic tendencies” (37%); On both statements, almost as many disagree as they agree.

—Karl Bialik contributed to this article

See the results of this YouGov poll

methodology: This poll was conducted online October 26-30, 2023 among 1,000 U.S. adult citizens. Respondents were selected from YouGov’s opt-in panel using matching sampling. A random sample (stratified by sex, age, race, education, geographic region, and voter registration) was drawn from the 2019 American Community Survey. The sample was weighted for sex, age, race, education, 2020 election turnout rate, presidential voting, primary party identification, and current voter registration status. Demographic weighting targets come from the 2019 American Community Survey. Primary party identification is the most recent answer given by a respondent before November 1, 2022, and is weighted for the estimated distribution at that time (33% Democratic, 31% Republican). The margin of error in the total sample is about 4%.

Image: Getty (Hulton Archive)

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