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Economy

AI Seen as Greater Job Threat Than Immigration, Offshoring

by RJ Reinhart
AI Seen as Greater Job Threat Than Immigration, Offshoring

Story Highlights

  • 58% in U.S. say new technology is the greater threat to jobs
  • 23% of U.S. workers worry they may lose their jobs to technology
  • 12% of workers worry they may lose their jobs to immigration

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- More than half of Americans (58%) say technology poses a greater threat to jobs in the U.S. over the next decade, while 42% see immigration and offshoring as the greater threat. Republicans, who see immigration and offshoring as roughly an equal threat as technology, are the only subgroup of Americans not to see technology as a greater threat.

Americans' Perceptions of Threats to Jobs Over the Next Decade
Which of the following do you believe is a greater threat to jobs in the U.S. in the next 10 years: job loss due to immigration and offshoring, that is jobs or companies moving overseas, or job loss due to new technology, automation, robots, or artificial intelligence?
New technology Immigration and offshoring
% %
All Americans 58 42
Age
18-35 61 39
36-50 57 43
51-65 57 43
Education
Less than a bachelor's degree 57 43
Bachelor's degree or higher 61 39
Job type
White collar 62 38
Blue collar 59 41
Political party affiliation
Republican 48 52
Independent 57 43
Democrat 67 33
NORTHEASTERN UNIVERSITY/GALLUP SURVEY, SEPT. 15-OCT. 10, 2017

These data come from a Northeastern University/Gallup survey of Americans' attitudes toward artificial intelligence (AI) and its effect on their lives and work. The mail survey of 3,297 U.S. adults was conducted Sept. 15-Oct. 10, 2017. The data show Americans are largely positive about the impact AI will have, but still expect it to cost jobs, with 73% of Americans predicting that AI will lead to a loss of more jobs than it creates.

The survey asked Americans to choose which they thought was the greater threat to U.S. jobs over the next decade, immigration and offshoring or new technology, automation, robots, or artificial intelligence. The question defined offshoring as jobs or companies moving overseas.

Although majorities across nearly all subgroups agree that new technology poses a greater risk to their jobs than immigration and offshoring does, Republicans consider the threat posed by technology (52%) to be roughly equal to that of immigration and offshoring (48%). Republicans' perceptions contrast sharply with Democrats', whose views strongly tilt toward believing new technology is the greater threat to jobs (67%) than is immigration and offshoring (33%).

U.S. Workers Twice as Likely to Worry About Losing Job to AI Than to Immigration

U.S. workers as well see a greater threat from new technology than from immigration and offshoring. Almost one in four American workers say they are very or somewhat worried about losing their own jobs to new technology, nearly twice as many as the 12% who say the same about immigration and offshoring. Levels of worry about these specific threats to American workers' jobs are higher than the 8% of U.S. adults who worry about being laid off in the next 12 months, in general.

American Workers' Worry About Job Loss to New Technology vs. Immigration
How worried are you about your job being eliminated as a result of new technology, automation, robots, or artificial intelligence?
How worried are you about an immigrant, that is, someone from another country taking your job, or are you not worried at all?
(Respondents who said they were somewhat or very worried)*
New technology worry Immigration worry Technology minus immigration
% % pct. pts.
U.S. workers 23 12 11
Age
18-35 25 13 12
36-50 21 8 13
51-65 27 15 12
Education
Less than a bachelor's degree 28 15 13
Bachelor's degree or higher 15 7 8
Job type
White collar 19 9 10
Blue collar 26 17 9
Political party affiliation
Republican 19 17 2
Independent 27 13 14
Democrat 23 9 14
*Among employed Americans
NORTHEASTERN UNIVERSITY/GALLUP SURVEY, SEPT. 15-OCT. 10, 2017

For the most part, American workers' fear of losing their jobs to new technology versus to immigrants varies little by subgroup. However, the key exception is Republican workers, who worry about the two threats to their own jobs roughly equally -- 19% for new technology versus 17% for immigration. Among Democratic workers, nearly a quarter (23%) worry about losing their jobs to new technology compared with 9% who worry about the threat to their personal jobs posed by immigration.

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Bottom Line

Americans largely perceive new technology as a greater threat to jobs in the U.S. over the next decade than immigration and offshoring. This view is supported by a recent Oxford study of the potential impact of the adoption of AI on the U.S. job market, which suggests as many as 47% of jobs are potentially at risk of elimination from this new technology. In contrast, estimates of the cost in American jobs from immigration and offshoring vary widely, with some reports suggesting these may create more jobs than they eliminate.

The risk posed by new technology to American jobs has been given little public attention by President Donald Trump's administration. U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin recently said that there was no need to worry about AI displacing American workers for a half century or more. Trump has been much more focused on the impact of immigration, based on the contention that immigrants take jobs away from Americans.

Whether the Trump administration is focused on the impact of AI on jobs, many others see it as particularly pressing. Nearly three-quarters of Americans (73%) say the adoption of AI will eliminate more jobs than it creates.

Read the full Northeastern/Gallup report "Optimism and Anxiety: Views on the Impact of Artificial Intelligence and Higher Education's Response."

Survey Methods

Results for the Northeastern University-Gallup survey on artificial intelligence are based on surveys conducted by mail from Sept. 15 to Oct. 10, 2017, with a random sample of 3,297 U.S. adults aged 18 and older. The survey package included an English and a Spanish survey to provide respondents with the flexibility to reply in their preferred language.

Gallup selected the sample of U.S. residents using address-based sampling (ABS), a sampling technique used to select households from a list of all households on file with the United States Postal Service (USPS). Gallup chooses respondents within the household at random based on which household member would have the next birthday. Gallup used a series of postcard reminders to encourage participation in the survey.

Gallup weighted the data to match national demographics of gender, age, education, race, Hispanic ethnicity, education and region.

All reported margins of sampling error include the computed design effects for weighting.

-For results based on the total sample of 3,297 U.S. adults, the margin of sampling error is ±2 percentage points at the 95% confidence level.

-For results based on the sample of 2,871 employed U.S. adults, the margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points at the 95% confidence level.

Gallup

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Gallup https://news.gallup.com/poll/228923/seen-greater-job-threat-immigration-offshoring.aspx
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