Even as some elected officials insist on continuing probes of America’s tech sector, solid majorities of voters think those investigations are a poor use of time as well as tax dollars. That’s just one warning in a new survey released today from National Taxpayers Union (NTU) asking Arizona concerning the economy, technology, and how Arizona’s Attorney General should invest limited taxpayer resources. The survey of 500 likely Arizona voters was conducted by the respected firm Fabrizio, Lee & Associates, which has advised a number of campaigns, over May 12-17.
NTU conducted this survey amid an increased interest by Congress, the Department of Justice, and State Attorneys General in pursuing antitrust investigations and lawsuits against several American tech companies. For more than 25 years, NTU has warned policymakers about the lasting negative impact of antitrust investigations on economic innovation, consumer welfare, and the development of technologies that make government more efficient, effective and responsive to taxpayer needs. The organization has likewise voiced concerns over taxpayer resources being directed toward such often- destructive litigation, whether the issues have been software “tying,” search regulation, or the latest accusations of excessive market power in advertising. Throughout this time, NTU research and analysis has made the case for a light-touch approach toward competition regulation in order to safeguard consumers and taxpayers.
On the most important priority for the state’s top prosecutor, the largest groups of voters suggested a focus on combating human trafficking (22%) and price gouging (18%), while the share focused on investigating companies for antitrust violations (3%) fell below the margin of error. Among GOP voters, the gap between the top answer (human trafficking) and bottom answer (antitrust) was even wider, at 27% and 2%, respectively. The survey also examined fraud, elder abuse, criminal prosecutions, and other issues. “Arizona voters expect officials to be mindful of taxpayer dollars, and the office of Attorney General is no exception,” said Pete Sepp, President of NTU. “Especially in today’s budgetary environment, limited resources need to stay focused on serious threats to consumers’ pocketbooks, but all too many Attorneys General across the country have instead been focused on grabbing headlines with issues that rank low in importance with most Americans.”
Asked where they would least like to see the State Attorney General spend tax dollars, among the most common answers were suing drug manufacturers over addiction to pain killers (20%) and investigating companies for antitrust violations (17%). In general, tech companies were viewed positively by Arizona voters (37% favorable, 9% unfavorable), with individual companies viewed favorably by as much as 75% of respondents.
“States face massive budget shortfalls as the result of COVID-19 shutdowns and those will have to be made up either with service cuts or higher taxes,” Sepp observed. “Both are unpalatable to American voters, particularly if their future is shortchanged so that their Attorney General can tilt at far away windmills which have at best tenuous links to the state.”
The survey also found that respondents were sensitive to the state budget crunch caused by COVID-19. A large majority of Democrats (75%), Independents (68%), and Republicans (64%) all indicated that spending tax dollars to investigate tech companies is a “minor priority” or “not a priority at all” given the financial strain caused by coronavirus.
“At a time when European competition regulators are effectively creating trade barriers to our firms abroad, we can’t afford to squander public resources here at home on politically driven campaigns against American businesses large and small,” Sepp concluded. “The Attorney General is there to defend the public, not attack the businesses that are meeting unique challenges and delivering for Americans during the pandemic.”
Detailed results are available here.