Sep 11, 2023 - Technology

Poll: Americans believe AI will hurt elections

Data: Axios | Morning Consult; Chart: Axios Visuals
Data: Axios | Morning Consult; Chart: Axios Visuals

Half of Americans expect misinformation spread by AI to impact who wins the 2024 election — and one-third say they'll be less trusting of the results because of artificial intelligence, according to a new Axios-Morning Consult AI Poll.

Why it matters: Such sentiments may fuel more doubt and anger around the first presidential race since the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Between the lines: Supporters of former President Trump were nearly twice as likely as backers of President Biden to say AI would decrease their trust in election results (47% to 27%).

  • Self-identified liberals (21%) were nearly twice as likely to say they have used generative AI for work or education than moderates (11%) or conservatives (12%). That may be tied in part to age, with 35% of Gen Z but just 3% of baby boomers saying so.

Driving the news: The findings come as Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer prepares for a major AI "forum" with top tech executives Wednesday.

What we're watching: Of those who have used AI to complete a task, 64% said they felt what the AI produces is better quality than what they could do on their own.

The big picture: The survey of 2,203 U.S. adults finds a majority of Americans expect humans to lose control of AI in the next 25 years.

  • Americans across ideological lines feel more pessimistic (36%) than optimistic (26%) about the future of AI.
  • Americans overall were more skeptical about whether AI can be effectively regulated than were computer scientists interviewed for a recent Axios-Generation Lab-Syracuse University AI Experts Survey.
  • The general population also expressed far more faith than did the experts in individual politicians' handling of AI — Biden for Democrats, Trump for Republicans.

By the numbers: 53% of survey respondents said misinformation spread by AI will impact who wins. That view was broadly shared across Fox, CNN, and MSNBC frequent watchers.

  • 35% said AI will decrease their trust in election advertising (42% of Trump voters; 33% of Biden voters).

Yes, but: Mistrust of AI may reflect U.S. society's lack of trust in tech companies and more broadly in institutions — from big business to the military to the Supreme Court.

Interest in generative AI hit a peak in March, coinciding with the release of ChatGPT-4.

  • That's according to tracking by Morning Consult, whose experts say the debate has shifted in recent months from what AI can do to how to manage AI's capabilities.
  • Self-reported usage of AI tools cannot be independently verified.

Zoom in: No generation feels "very familiar" with generative AI, but Gen Zers (22%) and millennials (23%) are the most likely to feel that familiarity, and to show trust and interest in AI.

  • Just 8% of Gen Xers and 4% of baby boomers feel "very familiar" with generative AI.
  • Those aged 65+ consistently rated themselves as unfamiliar with various uses of AI — from developing new medicines to designing better buildings.
  • Whether a parent lets their under-18 kids use AI is correlated with parents' own experience using an AI chatbot. Among parents who've used such a chatbot, 83% would allow their kids to, compared to 34% who haven't used such a product.

Details: About 1 in 3 U.S. adults said they're "very concerned" about the development of AI — a level consistent across levels of AI chatbot usage, and whether or not the respondent said they were enthusiastic about tech generally.

  • More say humans are still smarter than AI (34%) than the reverse (22%) — but nearly two-thirds of those surveyed said we will definitely or probably reach a point where humans will lose control of AI.
  • 54% of those who think humans will lose control of AI predict that switch will happen within five years, and 90% think it will happen in the next 25 years (about 6 in 10 of all respondents).

What they're saying: Eli Yokley, politics analyst at Morning Consult, said while concern about AI-driven misinformation is a "political uniter" across party lines, lack of trust in leaders and institutions "suggests peril for efforts on Capitol Hill to regulate the quickly-budding technology."

  • Morning Consult tech analyst Jordan Marlatt notes that while a majority of millennials express enthusiasm about AI, "they also share the same concerns about the technology as many others."

What's next: There's no consensus on regulation. One in three respondents said AI can't be regulated effectively. That's a greater share than the 26% who said creating a new federal government agency is the best option.

  • Even within their own party bases, no presidential candidate has "a lot" of trust from the majority of their own party to oversee AI.
  • Just 35% of Democrats have a lot of trust in Biden to oversee AI regulation, compared with 40% of Republicans for Trump and 21% for Trump's closest primary rival, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Methodology: This poll was conducted online Aug. 10- 13, 2023 among a sample of 2,203 U.S. adults.

  • The results are weighted to approximate U.S. adults based on age, gender, race, educational attainment, region, gender by age, and race by educational attainment.
  • Results from the full survey have a margin of error of ±2 percentage points.
  • Detailed methodology here.
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