Americans Both Optimistic and Concerned about Automation

Confident as Consumers, but Worried as Workers

The author(s)

  • Clifford Young President, US, Public Affairs
Get in touch

Washington, DC —  A new study conducted jointly by Ipsos Public Affairs and the Center for Business Analytics in the McIntire School of Commerce at the University of Virginia shows that U.S. consumers are ambivalent about automation as they express both optimism and concern.


In the study’s main survey, conducted among over 2,982 U.S. adults between June 29 and July 3, 2017, large majorities of respondents say they worry about data security when using automated devices (70%), they feel automation isolates people more than it brings them together (69%), and they think it destroys more jobs than it creates (56%). At the same time, most respondents also think that automation has: made products and services more accessible (65%), easier to use (56%) and improved their quality (51%); made life easier (63%) or more interesting (52%): and improved the shopping experience (58%).

As consumers, most adults surveyed are hopeful about the impact on people’s lives brought upon by increased automation in most sectors of the economy – especially information (70% say it’s been positive), transportation (62%), and manufacturing (also 62%). However, one third of all workers surveyed (35%) worry about losing their job because of automation, including majorities of those employed in the transport/warehousing and the arts/sports/recreation sectors. Four in ten (40%) expect that most of what they do today will be done by machines in 20 years.

More than half of all workers (54%) feel that automation has made their current job totally different from what it was 20 years ago, especially those working in the media/publishing/telecom/data processing, administrative/support services, and financial services industries. While a majority of workers (55%) feel that automation has made the workplace less social and friendly, between half and one third of them say that it’s made their job easier, less stressful, and more interesting, it’s made them more productive, and it has improved the quality of their work.

Among 12 automation applications that the study focuses on, those that are most widely used by U.S. consumers all serve for commercial transactions and communications: online shopping and banking (currently used by 87% of adults), self-check-out/ordering kiosks (73%), automated voice menus (63%), customer service online chat boxes (58%) and voice recognition assistance (50%). Consumers most commonly describe how they feel about using those applications as “comfortable”, except for automated voice menus, with which they are more likely to be “irritated”.

The applications showing the widest difference in usage across age groups are wearable electronics and internet-connect appliances and home devices. There is a gap of 50 percentage points between their adoption by 18-24 year-olds and by those aged 65 and older (67% vs. 19% and 61% vs. 9%, respectively).

For self-driving cars, artificial intelligence, robots, internet-connected medical devices, and drones – all applications that are not yet used widely – consumers most often feel “hesitant” or, to a lesser extent, “worried”. 

About the Study

In partnership with the Center for Business Analytics in the McIntire School of Commerce at the University of Virginia, Ipsos conducted a short, two-question online survey on May 24-25, 2017 with a national sample of 1,008 adults aged 18+ and a longer, 13-question online survey between June 29 and July 3, 2017 with a national sample of 2,982 adults aged 18+.

For each survey, the sample was randomly drawn from Ipsos’s online panel (see link below for more info on “Access Panels and Recruitment”), partner online panel sources, and “river” sampling (see link below for more info on the Ipsos “Ampario Overview” sample method).

This method does not rely on a population frame in the traditional sense. Ipsos uses fixed sample targets, unique to each study, in drawing the sample. After a sample has been obtained from the Ipsos panel, Ipsos calibrates respondent characteristics to be representative of the general U.S. population using standard procedures such as raking-ratio adjustments.

The source of these population targets is the U.S. Census 2013 American Community Survey data. The sample drawn for this study reflects fixed sample targets on demographics. Post-hoc weights were made to the population characteristics on gender, age, race/ethnicity, region, and education.

Statistical margins of error are not applicable to online polls. All sample surveys and polls may be subject to other sources of error, including, but not limited to coverage error and measurement error. Where figures do not sum to 100, this is due to the effects of rounding.

The precision of Ipsos online polls is measured using a credibility interval. For the first and shorter poll, reported on slides 8 and 16-18, the credibility interval around percentages for all respondents is +/- 3.5 points. For the second and longer poll. reported on all other slides, the credibility interval around percentages for all respondents is +/- 2.0 points.
For more information about conducting research intended for public release or Ipsos’ online polling methodology, please visit our Public Opinion Polling and Communication page where you can  download our brochure, see our public release protocol, or contact us.

For more information on this news release please contact:

Clifford Young
President, U.S.
Ipsos Public Affairs
[email protected]

About Ipsos Public Affairs

Ipsos Public Affairs is a non-partisan, objective, survey-based research practice made up of seasoned professionals. We conduct strategic research initiatives for a diverse number of American and international organizations, based not only on public opinion research, but elite stakeholder, corporate, and media opinion research.

Ipsos has media partnerships with the most prestigious news organizations around the world. In Canada, the U.S., UK, and internationally, Ipsos Public Affairs is the media polling supplier to Reuters News, the world's leading source of intelligent information for businesses and professionals. Ipsos Public Affairs is a member of the Ipsos Group, a leading global survey-based market research company. We provide boutique-style customer service and work closely with our clients, while also undertaking global research.

About Ipsos

Ipsos is an independent market research company controlled and managed by research professionals. Founded in France in 1975, Ipsos has grown into a worldwide research group with a strong presence in all key markets. Ipsos ranks fourth in the global research industry.

With offices in 88 countries, Ipsos delivers insightful expertise across five research specializations: brand, advertising and media; customer loyalty; marketing; public affairs research; and survey management.

Ipsos researchers assess market potential and interpret market trends. They develop and build brands. They help clients build long-term relationships with their customers. They test advertising and study audience responses to various media and they measure public opinion around the globe.

Ipsos has been listed on the Paris Stock Exchange since 1999 and generated global revenues of €1,782.7 million in 2016.

The author(s)

  • Clifford Young President, US, Public Affairs

More insights about Technology & Telecoms