Oregonians wary of artificial intelligence, survey finds

Oregonians are apprehensive about artificial intelligence, a recent survey from the nonpartisan Oregon Values and Beliefs Center found. 

The Portland-based nonprofit regularly surveys Oregonians about their opinions on matters of public interest. Its latest research on artificial intelligence comes as the state grapples with how to handle the emerging technology. Earlier this year, the Oregon Legislature passed a law to crack down on artificial intelligence used by political campaigns to mislead voters, and Gov. Tina Kotek formed a new advisory council.

The online survey of about 1,800 Oregonians found a general wariness of AI, though most have used some form of artificial intelligence in their day-to-day lives. Navigation tools like Google Maps, virtual assistants like Siri and Alexa, autofill and spam filters were most commonly used. 

“While some Oregonians note potential benefits of AI, many of us feel like we’re not quite up to speed on how to really tap into its potential,” said Amaury Vogel, the center’s associate executive director.

Respondents were generally optimistic about AI being used for advancements in medicine, science and research, but they were most worried about its impact on jobs. 

“Oregonians are hopeful about AI’s potential to advance research and medicine, but they’re worried about negative impacts on education, jobs, politics, and art,” Vogel said. “They’re concerned enough about the impact on jobs, they want to make sure people who lose their jobs due to advances in AI receive unemployment benefits.”

Nearly two-thirds of those surveyed said the government should regulate the corporations developing artificial intelligence, though about the same number of respondents said they didn’t trust that the state government has the necessary expertise to regulate the complex industry. 

Respondents were evenly split on whether decisions about how to regulate AI should be left to the people and, by extension, their elected representatives, or whether it should be handled by independent experts. More respondents trusted the scientific community, ethics experts or leading universities to make decisions about AI than trusted the government or technology companies. 

When it came to government regulation, more than half of respondents favored passing laws that require AI research and development be done in the public interest, while about one-third supported a “wait and see” approach of monitoring AI without supporting or slowing its development. About a quarter of respondents wanted the state to recruit AI companies to Oregon, while a fifth wanted the state to ban the use of AI models by all state government officials. 

Pollsters also asked Oregonians about their support for various responses to AI development, finding strong support for unemployment benefits for people whose jobs become obsolete because of AI and incentives for companies to find technology-driven solutions for more affordable necessities. A slight majority of respondents supported the concepts of a universal basic income, or guarantee that everyone would receive a wage regardless of employment, and for guaranteed jobs for all citizens. 

The survey of 1,807 Oregonians was conducted online between Dec. 19 and Jan. 7 and responses were weighted based on region, gender, age, race or ethnicity and education to ensure a representative sample. 

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Julia Shumway is deputy editor of Oregon Capital Chronicle and has reported on government and politics in Iowa and Nebraska, spent time at the Bend Bulletin and most recently was a legislative reporter for the Arizona Capitol Times in Phoenix. An award-winning journalist, Julia most recently reported on the tangled efforts to audit the presidential results in Arizona.