A recent YouGov poll explored American opinions on the effect of artificial intelligence (AI) advancements on job availability in the United States. The poll asked Americans whether they believed AI would increase, decrease, or have no effect on the number of available jobs in 20 occupations.
For each of the 20 occupations polled about, AI is more likely to be seen as decreasing than increasing the number of jobs available. The largest percentages believe that AI will decrease the number of jobs available in the fields of manufacturing, customer service, and retail sales. AI is most likely to be expected to increase the total number of jobs available in computer programming, data science, and engineering — though for these as for all other fields, AI is more likely to be seen as subtracting than adding to the total number of jobs.
On the subject of how AI advances would affect the industry they are currently employed in, American workers are divided though more downbeat than upbeat. More say it will decrease the number of jobs available (29%) than increase it (12%), but a large share — 42% — expect there will be no effect. Younger workers, as well as people with postgraduate degrees, are somewhat more likely than other groups of workers to anticipate an increase in jobs in their field of work. People who say they currently use AI tools very often at work are more likely than people who don't to say they expect AI to increase jobs in their industries.
How will advances in AI affect other aspects of the workplace? Americans see good news and bad news. They're more likely than not to expect AI to increase automation of routine tasks, productivity, and innovation. On the other hand, they're more likely than not to expect AI to decrease job opportunities, worker satisfaction, and customer satisfaction. Americans are more likely than not to expect AI to decrease operating costs, but the reverse is true for consumer costs.
By 50% to 24%, Americans say the government should regulate the use of AI in the workplace. Full-time and part-time workers who say they currently use AI very often are especially supportive of government intervention: 75% say workplace use of AI should be regulated, compared to 46% of workers who never use AI.
The poll also asked workers who said their present industry's job market would be positively or negatively affected by AI to tell us in their own words why they thought that was the case: "Why do you think that artificial intelligence (AI) will decrease the number of jobs available in the industry that you are currently employed in?"
Responses from the 29% of workers who say that advances in AI will decrease the number of jobs available in their industry include the following comments, edited for grammar:
"I'm a graphic designer. ALL creative jobs are endangered. AI-created art will overtake humans for a while. I'm hoping we can get some AI ground rules in place that would stabilize human employment."
"My job is finance. Artificial intelligence will calculate finance more accurately and reduce mistakes of manual operation."
"I am a cashier; with self checkouts it would be easy for AI to replace me."
"I work in the post office. In some offices we have machines that weigh, measure and then calculate the postage. This machine also sells stamps. If the machines were enhanced with newer AI, they wouldn't need as many clerks in the office."
"I work in film/cinema; we easily imagine AI taking over elements of writing, visual effects VFX, and editing."
People who say that advances in AI will increase the number of jobs available in the industry were asked, "Why do you think that artificial intelligence (AI) will increase the number of jobs available in the industry that you are currently employed in?" Responses from among the 12% of workers who this applies to include the following comments, edited for grammar:
"I'm in healthcare and any new computer programs only increase the number of employees to deal with the computer programs, electronic healthcare records, etc."
"Currently I work in education and it can't be completely replaced by AI. As other jobs lose jobs to AI, it will cause more people to work in education."
"I work in software development. As more uses or needs for AI grow, it will feed the tech sector in the short term. But long term it will most likely decrease once the AI systems are in place."
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— Carl Bialik and Linley Sanders contributed to this article
Methodology: The poll was conducted among 2,000 U.S. adult citizens on two separate surveys conducted from March 9 - 13, 2023 and March 13 - 16, 2023, with each survey conducted among 1,000 U.S. adult citizens. Respondents were asked about a randomly selected sample of 10 of the 20 occupations on each poll. 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 is approximately 3%.
Image: Adobe Stock (stokkete)