A Gallup poll released Friday found that 53 percent of Americans see AI, robotics, and automation as a bigger threat to the nation’s jobs than immigration and outsourcing over the next 10 years. The poll, however, found telling gaps in how concerned various demographics were about new tech, with young and college-educated respondents choosing it more often than older Americans and those with less education.
Gallup collaborated with Northeastern University for the report, “Optimism and Anxiety: Views on the Impact of Artificial Intelligence and Higher Education’s Response.” 3,297 American adults between 18 and 65 responded to mail surveys sent last fall. The researchers divided the respondents into four categories: age (18-35, 36-50, 51-65), political party (Republican, Democrat, Independent), education (less than a four-year college degree, more than a four-year college degree), and job type (white collar, blue collar).
The long and short of it: people like technology, but don’t trust it. 77 percent of respondents said AI would have a positive impact on lives over the next decade, but when asked to predict whether new technologies will take away more jobs than they create during that same timespan, 73 percent of people agreed that they would. Furthermore, every demographic studied said they saw new technologies as a greater threat to American jobs than immigration and outsourcing.
Still, a more granular perspective shows a surprising divide in who is most fearful of losing their jobs to new tech. Respondents were asked the following question:
Which of the following do you believe is a greater threat to jobs in the U.S. in the next 10 years: job loss due to immigration and offshoring, that is jobs or companies moving overseas, or job loss due to new technology, automation, robots, or artificial intelligence?
The results were clear: younger, well-educated, and left-leaning respondents (those Snap- and Insta-obsessed millennials) more frequently believed that automation and AI would cause greater job losses than immigration or jobs going overseas. From the Gallup page:
Of the three age groups, respondents under 35 were the least concerned about outsourcing and immigration, with 61 percent saying new technology was the greater concern. Respondents with at least a four-year degree chose tech by the same margin. The gap was even more pronounced according to the political divide: 67 percent of Democrats picked new technoloft.
AI and automation are certainly poised to have enormous impacts on the job market, but it’s very telling that liberal millenials, so often defined by their relationship with technology, are most worried about it. But the future is changing, and AI is spreading to everything from healthcare to the legal system to law enforcement. By the time millennials are their parents’ ages, automation and emergent technologies replacing jobs will likely be more than just a threat.