Americans are divided on AI's societal impact, but most support government regulation

Taylor OrthDirector of Survey Data Journalism
May 25, 2023, 3:53 PM GMT+0

Last week, ChatGPT creator and OpenAI CEO Sam Altman testified before Congress, urging Senators to institute new regulations for artificial intelligence (AI) technology. New polling from the Economist/YouGov finds that nearly three-quarters of Americans — including majorities of Democrats (79%) and Republicans (73%) — believe that AI should be either somewhat or heavily regulated by the government. Just 8% believe AI should not be regulated by the government at all, and 20% are not sure.

AI tools are used at least somewhat frequently by one in four Americans. Usage is sharply divided by age: 43% of adults under 45 say they use AI at least somewhat often, relative to just 8% of adults 45 and older. AI usage is also higher among people with more education, as well as among people who work mostly or entirely from home rather than from another location.

People who said they use AI tools were asked to tell us in their own words what they've used AI for. Responses included using AI for assistance with doing homework, writing content for a podcast, communicating with clients, and searching for answers to general life questions.

Americans remain divided in their views on how advances in AI-based text generation, such as ChatGPT, will affect society. More think AI will be bad (34%) than good (19%); 24% believe it will be neutral and 23% aren't sure. People who use AI tools at least somewhat often are far more positive: 52% say it will be good while just 11% say it will be bad.

Optimism has risen among certain groups since we asked the same question in January, particularly for younger Americans. The share of people under 45 viewing AI text tools as benefitting society has increased by 10 percentage points in five months.

— Linley Sanders contributed to this article


See the toplines and crosstabs from the Economist/YouGov poll conducted on May 20 - 23, 2023 among 1,500 U.S. adult citizens.

Methodology: Respondents were selected from YouGov’s opt-in panel using sample matching. A random sample (stratified by gender, age, race, education, geographic region, and voter registration) was selected from the 2019 American Community Survey. The sample was weighted according to gender, age, race, education, 2020 election turnout and presidential vote, baseline party identification, and current voter registration status. Demographic weighting targets come from the 2019 American Community Survey. Baseline party identification is the respondent’s most recent answer given prior to June 1, 2022, and is weighted to the estimated distribution at that time (34% Democratic, 31% Republican). The margin of error for the overall sample is approximately 3%.

Image: Getty (Win McNamee)