After decades of rapid growth in the technology sector — accelerated by the pandemic — many American tech companies have recently laid off workers. Yet according to a recent YouGov survey, Americans are only somewhat aware of these job losses, with most seeing the tech industry's job market as comparable to the U.S. job market overall. At the same time, about half of Americans believe that the tech industry is currently in a "bubble," with companies being overvalued, and many believe that the bubble is already bursting or will burst within the next year. Fraud committed by founders of start-up tech companies is seen as common by many Americans, with most believing that it is at least somewhat easy to get away with. Support for increased government regulation of the tech industry exists among majorities of Americans belonging to each of a wide range of groups.
How do Americans evaluate the current job market for U.S. technology workers? When asked to rate the U.S. job market overall, and later the job market of the tech industry specifically, Americans with an opinion on each rate the two similarly. Even the 32% of Americans who say someone close to them — themselves, a family member, or a close friend — works in the tech industry don't see the tech job market as particularly grimmer than that of the U.S. job market as a whole.
People who are close to someone working in the tech industry are, however, more likely to have heard at least something about recent layoffs: 88% say they have, compared to 66% of all Americans. However, fewer than half of Americans in either group — 39% and 23%, respectively — say they've heard "a lot" about recent tech job losses.
When asked about the state of the U.S. tech industry more broadly, more Americans say its contribution to the country's economy is growing (36%) than say it is shrinking (22%) or staying the same (19%). And most people believe the U.S. still has room to improve when it comes to our tech industry. Just 10% of Americans think the U.S. tech industry is the best in the world; 34% think it's above average, 27% think it's average, and 18% think it's below average or the worst in the world.
Roughly half of Americans (49%) believe the U.S. tech industry is currently in a "bubble" — defined in the question as "companies being valued at more than they are actually worth." Just 16% say it is not in a bubble and 35% are unsure. Many expect the bubble to burst soon: Of people who believe there is a tech bubble, three in five say it is already bursting (25%) or will burst within the next year (38%).
One reason why many Americans perceive tech companies as overvalued is that many expect some level of fraud to be committed within a group of certain tech companies. About half of Americans believe it's either very (18%) or somewhat (35%) common for founders of start-up tech companies to commit fraud. Just one in five believe fraud is not very (18%) or at all common (2%). Fraud is also seen as being easy to get away with: 65% of people believe it's very or somewhat easy for start-up founders to commit fraud, while just 10% think it is very or somewhat difficult.
One group that Americans believe should play a role in preventing criminal behavior by founders is investors. By 59% to 16%, Americans think that major investors have a responsibility to ensure that small companies they invest in are acting ethically and within the limits of the law.
Most people also want the government to play a larger role in the functioning of the U.S. tech sector. Nearly two-thirds of Americans believe the tech industry should be more strictly regulated, including 29% who say it should be much more regulated and 35% who say it should be somewhat more regulated. Just 10% support less regulation and 8% want no change. Majority support for at least some increase in regulation of the tech industry is found within all political parties, age groups, and education levels examined.
— 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 (Yakobchuk Olena)