Gallup: Americans Are More Worried About Technology Taking Away Jobs Than Immigration

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Eric Lieberman Managing Editor
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In almost every demographic, Americans are more worried about the prospect of technology taking away jobs in the country than immigration and offshoring, according to a Gallup survey released Friday.

For all Americans, not considering any particular sector of the population, it’s 58 to 42 in favor of new technology as the primary concern of job loss over the next decade, rather than newcomers to the country and companies moving overseas.

When accounting for job type, 62 percent of people who identify as having a “white collar” occupation said they worry more about new technology, which can include automation, robots, or artificial intelligence. Only three percent fewer people with “blue collar” jobs said the same.

For people with less than a bachelor’s degree, 57 percent said new technology, while 61 percent of others who possess a bachelor’s degree or higher responded with technological advances, according to Gallup.

Age groups did not differ much either. Sixty-one percent of 18- to 35-year-olds thought technology is more likely to be the culprit of greater job loss in the future than immigration or an international relocation of a business. For 36- to 50-year-olds and 51 -to 65-year-olds, the majority was not quite as strong, but still close at 57 percent.

In contrast, the only demographic that showed a fairly substantial disparity is political affiliation.

Republicans were split 48 to 52 on new technology, and immigration and offshoring, respectively. It’s the only sector in the survey to worry more about immigrants and corporate displacement. Independents, and especially Democrats, are far less worried about immigration and offshoring with 57 percent and 67 percent respectively answering with new technology.

To get the results Northeastern University and Gallup surveyed a random sample of 3,297 U.S. adults aged 18 and older, and provided two potential languages to respond in. There were 12 separate margin of errors ranging from plus or minus two percentage points to six.

Still, people still really like technology, as 77 percent of respondents said artificial intelligence (AI) will ultimately be a benefit to humanity throughout the next 10 years.

The study’s conclusion reads:

It is clear that while Americans are optimistic about the positive impact that AI may have on people’s jobs and lives, many are also concerned about the short-term effect on jobs. However, the relatively low proportion of U.S. workers who are worried about their own jobs suggests some may be underestimating the likely impact of this technology. This is not unusual, as Americans tend to be more positive about conditions in their own lives than those in the country as a whole on a range of issues. However, this lack of awareness may present a challenge for efforts to equip Americans with the skills they need to compete in the emerging global AI economy.

There are some other studies and analyses that somewhat corroborate the sentiment among a majority of Americans.

Industrial robots had a significant impact on U.S. employment and wages for many local labor markets between 1990 and 2007, according to a study published in early 2017 from the National Bureau of Economic Research. The researchers say their studies could demonstrate future implications of the spread of robots, since the technology may continue to expand, perhaps at an exponential rate. There are a number of caveats, including that since “there are relatively few robots in the U.S. economy, the number of jobs lost due to robots has been limited so far.”

Not everyone agrees with the idea of tech replacing jobs, at least in the long-run.

“We’re more likely to see humans working with and not competing against robots in many of the industry jobs imperiled by automation,” Ryan Hagemann, director of technology policy at the think tank the Niskanen Center, explained to The Daily Caller News Foundation many months ago when discussing the aforementioned study. “Because the authors’ model treats the labor market as one of competition between human labor and automated labor, it doesn’t seem to account for potential productivity gains through cooperation between the two.”

Tech guru and venture capitalist Marc Andreessen said in 2017 that automation, such as the technology embedded in self-driving cars, will not take away available jobs, but will actually create more. (RELATED: Trump Admin’s Driverless Car Strategy Wants Businesses To Take The Wheel)

“It’s a Luddite fallacy. It’s a recurring panic,” Andreessen said during a conference hosted by Recode, specifically referring to the oft-professed concern that automation is bad for the country and the world. “This happens every 25 or 50 years — people get all amped up about ‘machines are going to take all the jobs’ and it never happens.”

Others, like Hagemann and Andreessen, argue the tangible and intangible benefits of automation, robotics, and advanced technology in general, may not be as easily understood, or conspicuous, especially since it can take time and steady progress. (RELATED: Google Exec. I Am A ‘Job Elimination Denier’ When It Comes To Robots)

“The endless search for new and better ways of doing things drives human learning and, ultimately, prosperity in every sense–economic, social, and cultural,” Adam Thierer, senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center, wrote in his book “Permissionless Innovation.” “The pessimistic critics of technological progress and permissionless innovation have many laments, but they typically fail to consult the historical record to determine how much better off we are than our ancestors.”

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