Americans growing anxious as AI adoption expands, Pew Research finds

Concern levels rose by 14 points since December.

Amir Cohen / reuters

Americans have grown more worried about AI in the last nine months. A new survey from the Pew Research Center indicates 52 percent of respondents are more concerned than excited about rising artificial intelligence use, up 14 points since December. Meanwhile, only 10 percent say they’re more excited than worried, while another 36 percent described their views as equally balanced. “Concern about AI outweighs excitement across all major demographic groups,” the Pew Research Center wrote in a blog post today.

It’s been an eventful nine months since the Pew Center last surveyed people about AI. OpenAI’s ChatGPT went from a buzzed-about homework cheating tool to a household name, and the corporate world — including tech’s most prominent companies — raced to prove who was the most invested in generative AI. Microsoft plugged GPT-4 into Office and Windows, and Google launched its Bard chatbot while adding AI components to search. AI writing and generative art have made controversial (and widely covered in the media) entries into journalism, book writing, song production and even some political campaigns.

Although younger Americans are still more concerned than excited, their views tend to be more positive than their older counterparts. Among 18- to 29-year-olds, 42 percent are more concerned about “the growing use of AI in daily life,” and 17 percent are more excited. But among adults 65 and up, 61 percent say they’re primarily concerned, while excitement only outweighs concern for a mere four percent.

Yusuf Mehdi, Microsoft Corporate Vice President of Search speaks to members of the media about the integration of the Bing search engine and Edge browser with OpenAI on Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2023, in Redmond. Microsoft is fusing ChatGPT-like technology into its search engine Bing, transforming an internet service that now trails far behind Google into a new way of communicating with artificial intelligence. (AP Photo/Stephen Brashear)
Microsoft rolled out its browser-based AI chatbot earlier this year. (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Pew Research also polled respondents on awareness of AI, and it appears the more people have heard about its rising adoption, the more uneasy they feel. The polling reports that about 90 percent of adults have heard a lot (33 percent) or a little (56 percent) about artificial intelligence, with the “a lot” group growing by seven points since December. Those who have heard much about AI are more likely to be worried than in December: Anxiety outweighs enthusiasm (47 percent to 15 percent) among that demographic, compared to 31 percent concerned to 23 percent excited last year. Even those who have only heard a little about it describe a more negative view than respondents in the December poll — by 19 points.

When breaking down AI’s impact into categories, results are more mixed. On one hand, 49 percent said it helps more than hurts when finding products and services they’re interested in online (compared to 15 percent that say it hurts more). But 53 percent answered that it hurts more than helps in keeping personal information private, with a mere 10 percent saying it helps more in that area. Other areas where the polled Americans said it helps more include companies making safe vehicles, doctors providing quality care and people taking care of their health. Categories like finding accurate online information, providing quality customer service and police keeping the peace were closer to an even split between positive and negative.

Respondents with and without higher education answered differently. For example, college graduates were more likely to view AI as a positive in finding products and services online and helping doctors provide quality care (60 percent positive among college grads, 44 percent for those without a degree). But people with “some college or less” were less likely to view it as a negative for protecting private information (59 percent among college-educated, 50 percent for those with less). Overall, those polled with a college education were more likely to view AI positively.