Which technologies do Americans associate with AI?

Carl BialikU.S. Politics Editor and Vice President of Data Science
Taylor OrthDirector of Survey Data Journalism
August 31, 2023, 8:24 PM GMT+0

While artificial intelligence (AI) is already integrated into many popular consumer products and services — such as smart-home devices, social media algorithms, and search engines — AI's most recent breakthroughs have created some ambiguity around its definition. Two recent YouGov polls explore which technologies Americans most associate with AI and what they anticipate their effects will be.

One poll asked Americans what first comes to mind when they think of AI, first in their own words and then from among a list of 10 options. The results of the second question demonstrate a lack of consensus among the 10 options, with 20% saying they think first of robotic automation systems, 13% saying they think of text-generation tools, and 10% saying they think of customer support chatbots. While Americans who are 45 and older are most likely to associate AI with robotics, younger adults are more likely to think first of text-generation tools.

An AI-assisted analysis of common themes listed in open-ended responses to the question of what comes to mind when thinking of AI reveals similar findings, with the largest shares mentioning chatbots, robots, and virtual assistants in their responses.

Another recent YouGov poll asked Americans to identify whether 10 specific technologies are examples of AI. (All of the examples asked about could be classified as forms of AI.) Of the technologies asked about, Americans are most likely to say that "a chatbot that immediately answers customer questions" is an example of AI, with 76% identifying it as such. Majorities also say that "a self-driving car navigating city streets" (69%) and "a tool that analyzes medical imaging to assist doctors in diagnosing diseases" (63%) are instances of AI. The smallest share — 46% — identify as an example of AI "a wearable fitness tracker that analyzes exercise and sleep patterns."

Views on how AI will affect society vary among demographic groups. Overall, more believe that AI's effects on society will be entirely negative or more negative than positive (37%) than entirely positive or more positive than negative (21%); 27% believe its effect will be equally positive and negative. Groups whose future expectations regarding the effects of AI are more negative than the overall population include women, people aged 45 and older, and Republicans. Groups whose expectations are more positive include men, adults under 45, Democrats, and people with a college degree.

Future expectations regarding certain types of AI are slightly more positive than are views of the effects of AI in general. While a majority say that AI translation tools will have a more positive than negative impact on society, opinions on all other forms of AI asked about are more mixed, with roughly equal shares saying their effects will be mostly positive, mostly negative, and equally positive and negative. The three types of AI technologies viewed most negatively — among those asked about — are autonomous vehicles, customer support chatbots, and facial recognition tools.

See the results for the following YouGov polls:

Methodology: This article includes results from two polls, conducted online from August 9 - 14, 2023 and August 14 - 20, 2023, each among 1,000 U.S. adult citizens. For 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 for the overall sample for each poll is approximately 4%.

Image: Generated by author using Midjourney, an AI image-creation tool

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