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Could a TikTok shutdown cost Trump at the polls?

September 12, 2020, 6:00 PM UTC

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All signs point to TikTok shutting down.

This week President Donald Trump said he wouldn’t delay his executive order that bans TikTok from operating in the U.S. unless its parent Chinese company, ByteDance, sells it to an American company by September 20.

And TikTok has yet to finalize a deal as Chinese government officials remain opposed to offers made by Microsoft/Walmart and Oracle. And on Friday, Reuters reported that China would rather see TikTok be shut down in the U.S. than it forced into a sale.

But if Trump—citing security concerns—actually shuts down TikTok will it cost him votes? To find out Fortune and SurveyMonkey teamed up to poll 2,478 U.S. adults between August 17 and 18.*

We found the public isn’t thrilled by the executive order, however, they aren’t strongly opposed to it either. Among U.S. adults, 50% oppose Trump’s executive order to force a sale of TikTok’s U.S. business, 41% support the order, and 9% are unsure.

But there is a huge generational divide: TikTok is synonymous with Gen Z, and they’re supporting the app in this fight with the White House. Among adults age 18 to 24, 62% oppose the executive order to force a sale of TikTok. And 65% of TikTok users oppose it. 

And while TikTik has a -12 percentage point net favorability among the U.S. adult population, it has a +22 net favorability among 18 to 24 year-olds, finds the Fortune-SurveyMonkey poll. Among people who use the app, that net favorability is a staggering +63 percentage points.

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But does this add up to fewer votes for Trump? It’s unlikely. Most of the support and opposition for the ban breakdown along party lines: Among Republicans, 79% support the ban compared to just 13% of Democrats. That partisan divide holds true for Americans age 18 to 24—an age group already unlikely to support Tump.

On the flip side, it could potentially increase young voter turnout against Trump. Past history tells us young voters fluctuate up and down between elections more than any other age cohort: In 2008, voter turnout among those under age 30 was at 50%, meanwhile, in 2016 it barely topped 40%.

And with vote registration deadlines nearing, it would likely have to come from younger voters who are already registered.

*Methodology: The Fortune-SurveyMonkey poll was conducted among a national sample of 2,802 adults in the U.S. between July 17-21. This survey’s modeled error estimate is plus or minus 3 percentage points. The findings have been weighted for age, race, sex, education, and geography.


This is an excerpt of data from Fortune Analytics, an exclusive newsletter that Fortune Premium subscribers receive as a perk of their subscription. The newsletter shares in-depth research on the most discussed topics in the business world right now. Our findings come from special surveys we run and proprietary data we collect and analyze. Sign up to get the full briefing in your inbox.