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EXPLORI NG CONSUMER ATTI TUDES & ACTI ONS
ON KEY TECH POLI CY I SSUES 201 4
A S T U D Y B Y E D E L MA N D C T E C H N O L O G Y + P O L I C Y G R O U P A N D E D E L MA N B E R L A N D
Executive Summary of Findings
In May 2014, Edelman’s DC Tech + Policy Group commissioned a survey through Edelman Berland, asking over
1,000 US consumers over the age of 18 to share their views on key tech policy issues.
The goal for this study was two-fold: 1) To understand which of these tech policy issues circulating in
Washington right now have the most impact on US consumers, both personally and in business, which of these
issues they’re willing to take action on, and what kind of action they’d be willing to take; 2) To leverage this
snapshot of attitudes – which will be repeated year over year – to help Edelman design more tailored
approaches for its clients to communicate their principles and philosophies on these tech-related issues to their
customers, employees and stakeholders.
We identified the top tech policy issues as:
The security of your personal data used online, on your smartphone, on connected home devices and/or
on wearable computers
The privacy of your personal data and how it is used by business and government
The cost, choice and quality of broadband Internet service you receive at home
Technological innovations that improve everyday life and work (e.g., music/movie purchasing and
sharing, getting a taxi/car ride or a room while traveling using a smartphone app, “the sharing
The future of America’s high tech workforce – from the immigration of skilled workers to the focus on
STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education in US schools
The use of technological tools and computer algorithms to gain an advantage in the stock market.
The commercial use of unmanned aerial vehicles (drones)
Intellectual property protections for people’s ideas and innovations
We asked 1,028 US consumers over the age of 18 which of these issues most impacted them personally, and
which most impacted their business or livelihood. Of those who chose an issue (vs selecting the “none”
option), here is what we found:
Across the board, the privacy and security of personal data were considered the most impactful on people
personally and in business. The next grouping of issues people found important were the cost, choice and
quality of their home internet service (net neutrality being the policy lingo), tech innovations that improve
everyday life (“the sharing economy,” as the issue has become known), and the future of America’s high tech
workforce. The issues that were found least impactful were the protection of intellectual property, the use of
tools/algorithms to gain advantage in the stock market, and the commercial use of unmanned aerial vehicles.
When asked which of these issues was most likely to drive them to take an action, some of the issues that
spurred action corresponded to their impact, and some did not:
tech policy issue personal impact business impact
security 30% 24%
privacy 29% 26%
cost, choice & quality of internet 16% 11%
tech innovations that improve everyday life 9% 12%
future of America’s high tech workforce 8% 10%
use of tools & algorithms in the stock market 3% 5%
commercial use of unmanned aerial vehicles 3% 4%
intellectual property protections 2% 6%
Privacy and security are still the top issues that drive action, as is cost, choice and quality of internet service.
But some of the more impactful issues end up less-prioritized when it comes to taking action (tech
innovations/sharing economy), while some of the less impactful issues, like unmanned aerial vehicles and IP
protections, end up driving a slightly higher level of action.
Interestingly, the top three issues that people are most willing to take action around – privacy, security and
cost of internet service – all happen to be the issues that would likely have the most immediate financial impact
About the people who chose “none” to the above questions:
16% said none of the issues impacted them personally/their families; 30% said none of the issues impacted
them professionally/their livelihood.
o These people tended to be low income, low education, older, divorced/separated/widowed, retired,
unemployed, homemakers and those with no children at home.
21% said none of the issues would cause them to take action.
o These people also tended to be older, lower income, low education and no children at home.
We then asked those people who were willing to take action if they had specific concerns about these
technology issues what type of action they’d be willing to take, and here is what we found:
Most surprisingly, many people are willing to take the relatively extreme action of stopping or reducing the
use of technologies that are in conflict with their beliefs. In looking at the different levels/styles of activism
people take in voicing their concerns over these issues, we see the breakdown as follows, taking into account
the fact that people were able to choose as many of these actions as they wanted:
tech policy issue personal impact business impact take action
security 30% 24% 25%
privacy 29% 26% 34%
cost, choice & quality of internet 16% 11% 11%
tech innovations that improve everyday life 9% 12% 5%
future of America’s high tech workforce 8% 10% 9%
use of tools & algorithms in the stock market 3% 5% 5%
commercial use of unmanned aerial vehicles 3% 4% 6%
intellectual property protections 2% 6% 6%
actions people are willing to take
sign an online petition 40%
contact a politician 27%
stop using technology in conflict with my beliefs 26%
reduce use of technology in conflict with my beliefs 25%
meet with local or natl representative 20%
post content to personal social media 18%
write an op-ed/LTE of a publication 16%
post content to business social media 12%
56% said they would make noise on Capitol Hill (sign an online petition; contact a politician; meet with a
local or national representative)
40% of respondents said they would stop or reduce the use of technologies in conflict with their beliefs
on these issues
29% said they would share their beliefs about these issues via breadth word of mouth means (write an
op-ed/LTE of a publication; post content to personal social media; post content to business social media)
In looking at this collective data, if we take specific characteristics of the respondents into account (age,
gender, income, education levels, etc.), some interesting trends start to emerge:
Women – who are quite often the family purchase drivers – were most likely to sign an online petition
and stop or reduce the use of technologies that were found to be in conflict with their personal beliefs.
Conversely, men were most likely to voice their opinions on these issues through meetings with local or
national representatives, writing op-eds or letters to the editor, or posting content on their personal or
business social media pages.
There is a generational divide in the issues people care about and the actions they are willing to take.
o After security & privacy, the issues that respondents under 30 feel most impacted by are tech
innovations that improve everyday life/work, and the future of America’s high tech workforce.
o While the numbers for signing online petitions and contacting politicians are high across all age
groups, we found that those 40 and older are most likely to stick to those tactics.
o Those 40 and under – who, as you might expect, are more likely to post social media content on their
personal sites or those of the businesses they follow – are also the most willing to meet with
local/national representatives to discuss their concerns, or sound off to publications through op-eds
and letters to the editor.
High income respondents and those under 40 are:
o Most willing to meet with a local or national representative, post content on their own or on a
business’ social media outlets.
o Most willing to write an op-ed or letter to the editor of a publication, and of this age group, the
majority lies with those between 18-29.
People with a high income and those over 55 are most willing to contact a politician.
Edelman unveiled these findings at a morning panel held in its Washington, DC, office entitled, “Navigating the
Cybersecurity and Privacy Regulation and Liability Landscape.” For more detailed findings about this study,
please visit http://www.edelman.com/insights/intellectual-property/exploring-consumer-attitudes-actions-key-