DOJ v. Google: Survey Results

Background

The Department of Justice (DOJ) is pursuing an antitrust lawsuit against Google for “unlawfully maintaining monopolies through anticompetitive and exclusionary practices in the search and search advertising markets and to remedy the competitive harms.” Former Attorney General Barr stated that Google’s monopoly harms “users, advertisers, and small businesses in the form of fewer choices, reduced quality (including on metrics like privacy), higher advertising prices, and less innovation.” If a company (e.g., Google) has too much centralized control over an industry (e.g., search engines), consumers potentially lose their ability to choose.  Some have alleged that the scope of the DOJ’s antitrust lawsuit against Google under former Attorney General Barr was too narrow, and that the way that the scope of the lawsuit was structured could leave Google in a more advantageous position than before the lawsuit was filed.    

At the time of posting this article, 13 states have joined the DOJ in this antitrust lawsuit against Google. These parties want Google to cease exclusionary deals with device manufacturers and internet browser companies (i.e., Firefox, Safari).

The DOJ’s case against Google is one of a growing number of antitrust lawsuits that Google is currently facing.  Thirty-five states, Guam, Puerto Rico and Washington D.C., have also filed lawsuits against Google alleging that Google maintained its monopoly in the search engine market by abusing its power in the smart speaker, voice assistant, voice connected cars, and digital advertising markets.  A Texas-led lawsuit accuses Google of monopolizing online display advertising, and in cooperation with Facebook, manipulating online display advertising auctions.

Method & Case Summary

We conducted a survey project [1]that included a brief summary of the DOJ’s antitrust lawsuit against Google. We drafted that summary after reviewing several news media articles and videos about the DOJ’s complaint. The summary, shown below, identified some of the DOJ’s allegations, and a portion of a reaction from one of Google’s executives.

[1] This survey of 1041 United States’ residents included questions on a variety of other issues, including data privacy, social media, attitudes related to the coronavirus epidemic, and the FTC’s antitrust case against Facebook.

After reading the case summary shown above, participants answered four questions:
1) Prior to reading this summary, were you aware that there was an antitrust lawsuit against Google?
2) How strong is the DOJ’s case against Google?
3) If you were asked to be a juror in this case, would you favor the DOJ or Google?
4) If you favored [Google/DOJ], please explain why you would favor [Google/DOJ].

Results

1) Awareness of the Antitrust Lawsuit against Google
As shown in the chart below 38% of the 1041 people we surveyed had heard about the case before reading the summary. The story was picked up by news outlets in October of 2020, when the case was filed, and there have been few reports about antitrust cases against Google since then.  Ironically, the most thorough summations of new coverage and web searches about the lawsuit can be found on Google Trends.

Horizontal bar showing the percentage of people who were or were (38%) not aware (62%) that there was an antitrust lawsuit against Google.

2) Strength of the Case

A little more than half of the participants (55%) said the case was “very” (16%), or “somewhat” (39%) strong. Thirty-eight percent of our sample believed that the case against Google was “not too strong.” Only 7% of the respondents said that the DOJ’s antitrust lawsuit against Google was “not strong at all.” 

Horizontal bar showing different percentages for how strong participants felt the DOJ's case was.

3) Party Favored

Eighteen percent of our sample said that they would “definitely” favor the DOJ, and 30% said that they would “probably” favor the DOJ after reading the case summary. A slight majority of our survey’s participants (52%) favored Google; 40% of the participants said that they would “probably” favor Google, and 12% said that they would “definitely” favor Google.

4) Why Favored

After indicating which party participants would favor, we aked them to explain why they would favor that party. Many of the reasons for favoring the DOJ centered around the size of Google’s market share, its data collection practices, and Google’s method of promoting certain companies in search results. Reasons for favoring Google focused on the fact that consumers can change their default search engine, that people use Google because of its merits, not because of its dominance, and other search engines are on the market.

  • Government regulation is the only thing that can end Google’s search engine monopoly.
  • Google is too powerful, a bully to competitors.
  • Many people do not know how to change their default search engine.
  • Google alters search results to further their own agenda.
  • Its practices are affecting the cost of consumer goods.
  • Google has too much private and personal data from users of its search engines.
  • Other search engine companies should get a real chance to compete.
  • It is easy to change the default search engine.
  • Google’s dominance is a reflection of it being innovative, the first in the industry.
  • People use Google’s search engine because is popular, accurate, and efficient.
  • Consumers have the power to choose to use whichever search engine they want to use.
  • Other companies, like Microsoft, engage in similar business practices.
  • There are other search engines on the market.
  • Companies have the right to make Google the default search engine.
  • Satisfied with and loyal to Google’s brand of products.