Few would debate that rapid technological change has transformed Americans' way of life over the past few decades. Yet technology's impact on various sectors of society has not been uniform, nor has it been consistently positive or negative. A recent YouGov poll finds that Americans are especially likely to have noticed major technological shifts in the areas of communication, media, and entertainment. And while technology-induced changes are generally more likely to be viewed positively than negatively, there are some sectors — such as media and politics — where technology is more often seen as detrimental than beneficial. In terms of Americans' specific worries regarding the future of tech, we find that large majorities are at least somewhat concerned about its influence on elections, the spread of misinformation, and a loss of privacy.
How has technology changed the way other industries operate?
The poll asked Americans to rate the extent to which the technology industry has changed the way 10 sectors operate. At least two-thirds of people say that technology has changed — either a great deal or somewhat — the way each of the sectors asked about operate. The share who say technology's impact has been "great" varies across sectors from more than half to about one-third. The biggest impacts are seen in communication (58% say "a great deal"), media (58%), and entertainment (49%).
Has technological change been good or bad for each sector? For eight of the 10 sectors asked about, more Americans say the technology industry has had more positive effects than say it has had more negative effects. The two exceptions are politics and media: Just 21% say the tech industry has had a positive influence on politics, and 33% say this about media. About half of Americans say that health care (52%) or communication (51%) have been very or somewhat positively affected.
What concerns Americans about the future of technology?
The poll also asked whether Americans are concerned about 20 issues relating to the U.S. technology industry. (Each respondent was asked about a randomly selected sample of 15 of the 20.) Majorities of Americans say they're at least "somewhat concerned" about each of the 20 issues — though some issues are more likely to be seen as "very" concerning. The largest shares say they're very concerned about the use of technology to influence elections and the spread of misinformation through social media. About half also are very concerned about privacy generally, and nearly as many are very concerned about the lack of regulation on data collection and usage. Large numbers are also at least somewhat concerned about the impact of technology on children's development, and the possibility of more people, in general, becoming addicted to tech. The issues polled that Americans express the least concern about are technology's effects on income inequality and on the environment — but more than half are at least somewhat concerned about each.
— Carl Bialik and Linley Sanders contributed to this article
Methodology: This poll was conducted online on January 24 - 27, 2023 among 1,000 U.S. adult citizens. 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 March 15, 2022, and is weighted to the estimated distribution at that time (33% Democratic, 28% Republican). The margin of error for the overall sample is approximately 4%.
Image: Adobe Stock (Peera)