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Washington state Democrats, Republicans disagree on social media moderation

Nearly half of voters said social media platforms should restrict conspiracy theory content, but others said the state should not be involved in its regulation.

SEATTLE — Nearly half of Washington state voters polled said social media platforms should restrict online content that shares conspiracy theories, but another half said the state government should not be involved in its regulation, according to WA Poll results released Thursday.

As races all over the country and in Washington state heat up, one of the biggest issues of our time is the way social media plays a role in elections. Misinformation and conspiracy theories can be found on every social platform and were a big point of contention in the last presidential election.

Here's what Washington state voters had to say about social media and misinformation as the midterm election rounds the corner.

Forty-eight percent of voters polled, the majority being Democrats, said social media platforms should restrict content or accounts that share rumors, conspiracy theories, or misleading information that could undermine trust in voting in the United States. Sixty-seven percent of those who said the platforms should restrict content voted for President Joe Biden in 2020, while 51% of Republicans said they should not.

Another 48% of voters polled said the state government should not be involved in regulating how social media platforms moderate content, the majority being Republicans. Of those who said the state government should not be involved, 64% voted for former President Donald Trump, while only 35% of Democrats agreed.

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Morgan Wack with the UW Center for an Informed Public said that overall there appears to be a general feeling that government regulation can do little when it comes to moderating content online.

"As many problems as people associate with social media, they associate even more with government and government intervention," said Wack. "So, I think people are willing to entertain alternatives, and you see kind of bipartisan support to address issues with social media, but you don't necessarily see that coming in the form of government intervention."

The WA Poll results also shed some light on how voters rate the news and information about voting and elections that they regularly associate and share with online.

Forty percent rated the information and news at about half false and half true, with 20% rating mostly true and 15% rating mostly false.

The WA Poll was commissioned by KING 5, The Seattle Times, University of Washington’s Center for an Informed Public and Washington State University’s Murrow College of Communication and was conducted by SurveyUSA. It surveyed 875 adults from Oct. 14-19, 2022. Of those adults, 719 were registered voters. The poll represented the demographics of Washington state with 46% from the metro Seattle area, 30% from western Washington and 24% from eastern Washington. 

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