Grinnell College National Poll Reveals Americans’ Distrust of Artificial Intelligence

Americans say tech companies and platforms like Google, Apple and Facebook have too much influence in their lives

October 25, 2023

The newest Grinnell College National Poll, conducted in collaboration with Iowa pollster J. Ann Selzer, uncovers Americans’ skepticism about the impact of AI, with a plurality of 46% of respondents saying that these technologies will have a negative impact on their lives. This skepticism is broadly shared by respondents of different racial identities, religions, income, and education levels, as well as across urban, suburban and rural geographies.

Graph showing nearly half of respondants feel tech companies have too much influence

“This is a strong finding of caution and concern among respondents and provides evidence that what has been called ‘techlash’ applies to people’s attitudes toward new AI advances as well as existing technologies,” said Karla Erickson, Ph.D., professor of sociology at Grinnell College whose research explores the social effects of cohabitating and collaborating with robots and AI. 

Erickson says, “The Poll’s findings confirm what I hear from both college-age students and adults of all ages, who report that they have been unsettled or thought they were the only ones who are deeply concerned about the relationship between humans, technology and automation. These data reflect that same sense of skepticism and concern among many.”

The poll’s findings revealed a gender gap in how men and women assess the impact of artificial intelligence systems, with women more likely to rate the impact as negative. Forty percent of men believe that AI will have a negative impact on their life, compared to 52% of women.

Graph comparing opinions on tech company influence by men and women

According to Erickson, “These findings are consistent with early research, which show that since the makers of new technologies are disproportionately male, new tech often centers male experience in its design. In addition, women, and particularly women of color, are aware of the ways that earlier technologies have often been deployed without having been validated with people of color or have failed to account for gender in their design, so they may approach new technologies with informed caution.”

The poll also found consistent agreement across all major demographic groups that technology companies and platforms like Google, Apple, and Facebook have too much influence on respondents’ lives.

Graph shows opinion about tech companies influence by age

Younger respondents were more likely than older Americans to say technology companies and platforms have too much influence in their lives, with 78% of respondents under age 35 saying technology companies and platforms have too much influence compared to 51% of those 55 and older. Erickson observed this may be due to young adults’ immersion in technological platforms for most of their young lives, and their subsequent awareness of the power of these platforms.

“In my work, the young adults who are characterized as ‘digital natives’ are both more adept at using digital technologies, more attuned to the pace at which technology changes, and more aware of the power technology companies have on their lives and futures,” says Erickson.

The Grinnell College National Poll, conducted for Grinnell College by Selzer & Co., surveyed 1,006 Americans ages 18 and over between October 10-15, 2023. The sample is weighted by sex, age, and race. Results for questions asked of the full sample have a margin of error of +/- 3.1 percentage points.

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