Oct 19, 2022 - Technology

Exclusive: Trust in tech erodes along partisan, economic lines

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Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

Trust in the tech sector has declined as Americans increasingly lump social media in with the companies that create hardware and software, according to data from Edelman shared first with Axios.

Why it matters: The shifting attitudes mean that confidence in technology is increasingly subject to partisan and economic divides.

"What constitutes 'tech' is expansive," Edelman New York deputy general manager Margot Edelman told Axios. "It’s no longer hardware and software — it’s about digital apps and social media. When people in developed markets consider the tech sector to include social media, their trust declines by nearly 10 points, showing the downward pull of social media on tech overall."

The big picture: Trust in tech overall has declined 24 points during the past decade in the U.S., losing ground across all demographics, according to Edelman's Trust Barometer.

By the numbers:

  • Republicans are 16% less trusting of tech than Democrats. "Our take is that’s reflective of a view that tech is the purview of liberal, coastal elites," Edelman said.
  • People with high incomes are more likely to trust the sector than those with low incomes. "There’s a natural intersection between fears of job loss and automation and a lack of trust in the sector," Edelman said.
  • In developed countries like the U.S., the majority of people trust neither governments to regulate technology nor the large platforms to regulate themselves.

Between the lines: In developed countries, people have low levels of trust in a host of emerging technologies, including cryptocurrency (26%), blockchain (35%), and autonomous tech (37%).

  • "This lack of trust comes in stark contrast to a whopping sense from respondents that technology companies and CEOs need to do more to drive societal change and address key issues," Edelman said.

Yes, but: Overall, trust in tech still ranks higher than trust in many other sectors of the economy.

  • The majority of people in developed countries still believe that technology can play a role in solving urgent societal needs, including healthcare access, mitigating climate change and increased economic competitiveness.
  • The majority of workers in 15 large developed or developing nations, while concerned with the long-term impact of automation, still see tech as having a positive impact on the workplace, including making jobs more meaningful, the survey found.

Editor's note: This story has been corrected to indicate the survey found low levels of trust in emerging technologies for developed countries, not developing countries.

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