The ongoing lawsuit against Uber and Lyft over the classification of drivers in the California exemplifies how tech companies are a key issue in Californian politics. To assess public attitudes towards so-called ‘big tech’ companies, Redfield & Wilton Strategies also asked Californians for their views on four of the most important and contentious tech companies: Amazon, Facebook, Twitter, and Airbnb.
We found that respondents view Amazon most favourably out of the four companies: 68% of respondents in California have a favourable view of the tech giant.
17% of Californians have neither a favourable nor an unfavourable view of Amazon. Importantly, we found that only 14% of respondents hold an unfavourable view of Amazon despite the current lawsuit launched against Amazon in California. The lawsuit aims to investigate whether Amazon allegedly failed to take the necessary steps to protect its workers amid the coronavirus pandemic. Perhaps, the somewhat surprisingly low level of hostility towards Amazon is because the company emerged as a vital lifeline during the pandemic: many turned to the website to stock up on face masks or toilet paper while older consumers saw in the company a means to avoid the risks of going to shops.
In fact, we found that older generations are interestingly more likely to view Amazon favourably than younger ones: roughly three quarters (73%) of Californians above the age of 65 view Amazon favourably against 56% of those between the ages of 18 to 24. It remain to be seen whether older customers, who had relatively low levels of e-commerce usage prior to the pandemic, will sustain their online shopping habits after the pandemic.
We found that roughly one in five (21%) respondents used Amazon a “few times a month”, while 20% do so a “few times a week.” Continued monitoring will enable us to determine whether Amazon usage fluctuates as lockdown restrictions are lifted.
Whereas Amazon enjoys a positive view among most residents of the Golden State – and especially among older Californians – only 39% of respondents have a favourable view of Facebook, with roughly a third (34%) viewing the social media company unfavourably.
One in four (25%) respondents view Facebook neither favourably nor unfavourably. Recently, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra called on Facebook to fight misinformation and online hate on the company’s website. Research we conducted earlier this April found that 61% of those who encountered some form of fake news during the coronavirus pandemic did so on Facebook.
Interestingly, we found that those who intend to vote for Donald Trump in November are more likely (44%) to have a favourable view of Facebook than those who intend to vote for Joe Biden (36%). Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, Facebook has refrained from moderating political speech and CEO Mark Zuckerberg called President Trump directly to explain why he believes that social networks should not be the “arbiters of truth.” Earlier this month, however, Facebook took down a video posted by President Trump for the first time which falsely claimed that children are immune to the coronavirus.
We found that a majority (52%) of respondents turn to Facebook at least once a day.
Facebook is not the only company that decided to take action against the President’s post: Twitter froze the Trump campaign’s account following the publication of the controversial video. In response, Courtney Parella, a spokesperson for the Trump campaign, accused the company of being biased against the President.
We found that an even smaller proportion of Californian respondents viewed Twitter favourably: only 31% of respondents have a favourable view of Twitter and 28% have an unfavourable view. Significantly, however, a third of respondents (33%) have neither a favourable nor unfavourable view of Twitter.
Similarly to Amazon, we found a generational divide amongst respondents. On Twitter, however, younger generations are roughly twice more likely to have a favourable view of the social media platform than older generations. Indeed, 41% of those between the ages of 18 to 24 have a favourable view of Twitter against just 21% of those above the age of 65.
A third (33%) of those who intend to vote for Biden in November have a favourable view of Twitter compared to just 25% of those who intend to vote for Trump. It follows Twitter’s fact-checking label, which was attached to some of the President’s tweets and which angered many of his supporters.
Lastly, we found that 31% of respondents view Airbnb favourably and 18% view Airbnb unfavourably. 35% of Californians have neither a favourable nor an unfavourable view of the subletting platform.
Echoing our findings above, those between the ages of 18 to 24 are more likely to view Airbnb favourably (34%) than those above the age of 65 (18%).
Currently, many cities in the Golden State, including Los Angeles, are struggling to implement a law aimed at regulating illegal rentals as analysis indicates that thousands of them continue to be advertised online.
Apart from Amazon, these companies were all born in the Silicon Valley and are thus an integral part of California’s cultural and political life. Our research indicates that social media companies such as Facebook and Twitter, which have become new tools of political communication, are the ones that cause the most division amongst residents of the Golden State, likely due to their influence in the political process.