Most Americans think schools should teach students to use AI appropriately, rather than banning it

Carl BialikU.S. Politics Editor and Vice President of Data Science
Taylor OrthDirector of Survey Data Journalism
April 20, 2023, 10:00 PM GMT+0

New YouGov polling finds that Americans are divided in their views on how advances in artificial intelligence (AI) will affect the K-12 education system, with slightly more saying they will have a very or somewhat negative impact (36%) rather than a positive impact (25%).

Younger American adults are far more optimistic about AI's effects on education than older Americans are. Adults under 30 are more likely to say AI will have a positive (39%) rather than a negative (22%) effect on K-12 education, while people 65 and older are more than twice as likely to say the effect will be negative (44%) rather than positive (18%).

Regarding how K-12 schools should respond to advances in AI, Americans are about twice as likely to say that schools should focus on "teaching students how to appropriately use AI" (52%) as they are to say schools should focus on "preventing students from using AI" (24%). Despite younger adults' greater optimism on AI in schools, they are more likely than older Americans to back preventing students from using AI.

One reason for this is likely that many Americans view AI-related skills as necessary for students' future careers: 19% say learning to use AI is very necessary and 42% say it is somewhat necessary. People who believe AI is very or somewhat necessary for the future of students' careers are far more likely than people who don't to believe schools should focus on teaching students how to appropriately use AI (70% vs. 30%).

One concern raised about AI's effects on education is whether it will render obsolete certain ways of evaluating students' learning and performance. Yet we find that Americans are divided in their views on how AI will affect take-home essays, with 30% saying that AI makes this type of assignment less useful than in the past, 22% saying it makes it more useful, and 25% saying it makes no difference.

There are large age differences on the question of how AI will affect the usefulness of take-home essays: 42% of adults under 30 say AI advances will increase the utility of take-home essays, compared to just 8% of people 65 and older.

If Americans were in school today, would they use AI to assist with their assignments, even if doing so were prohibited? One in three say they would (32%), while roughly an equal share — 35% — say they would not. The rest are not sure or preferred not to say. Two in five adults under 30 (41%) say they would use AI to assist with essays in school, even if it were prohibited. Just 21% of Americans 65 and older say this.

Americans are more likely (34%) than not (28%) to believe there is currently software available that is able to accurately distinguish writing done by students from writing produced by AI. The largest share (38%), however, is unsure whether software is currently able to do this

— Carl Bialik and Linley Sanders contributed to this article

See the results for this YouGov poll

Methodology: This poll was conducted online on April 13 - 20, 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 3%.

Image: Adobe Stock (Svitlana)