Brief • 1 min Read
With the latest advances in generative AI and large language models, virtual reality, robotics, and more, the role technology plays in modern life is rapidly evolving and expanding. The Harris Poll recently surveyed a representative sample of U.S. adults to get a sense of Americans’ sentiment toward the increased importance of technology in their daily life, and a few key insights have emerged from the results of the poll.
The generations converge and diverge along surprising lines.
Americans across generations share a lot of the same aspirations and apprehensions when it comes to new technology and its impact on society. Nine in 10 Americans agree that it’s important to keep an open mind about new technologies (Gen Z: 84%, millennials: 92%, Gen X: 90%, boomers: 89%), and 68% of all agree that companies responsible for creating new technologies do so to improve society, including 68% of Gen Z, 79% of millennials, 74% of Gen X, and 55% of baby boomers.
Americans are not without a healthy dose of skepticism, however. Perhaps surprisingly, Gen Z and millennials (58% each) report more frequently than Gen Xers (48%) and boomers (47%) that they believe new technologies are more likely to drive people apart than bring them together. Millennials are the most welcoming of early regulation of emerging technologies, as 4 in 5 (79%) agree early regulation is the best way to ensure new technologies positively impact society, compared to 66% of Gen Z, 69% of Gen X, and 67% of boomers.
Strong majorities across generational divides also agree that young people today are too dependent on technology. This includes 85% of all respondents, 80% of Gen Z, 82% of millennials, 89% of Gen X, and 87% of boomers. Four in 5 Americans (81%) also worry about the effect social media has on the mental health of today’s young people, two-thirds (67%) of Americans wish they could go back to a time before everyone was “plugged in.”
Millennials are particularly bullish on the potential new tech will have on their careers five years from now: two-thirds (66%) of millennials believe it will have a positive impact on their careers, compared to 58% of Gen Z, 50% of Gen X, and 21% of boomers. That said many boomers are either already retired or approaching retirement, and the sharp decline in those citing an anticipated positive impact compared to other generations is tempered by the 60% of baby boomers who say it’ll have no impact on their careers.
Millennials also lead the pack in believing the prospective impact new technology will have on their mental health, their physical health, and their lives overall will be positive:
- Their mental health:
- Gen Z: 54%, millennials: 61%, Gen X: 44%, boomers: 26%
- Their physical health:
- Gen Z: 49%, millennials: 60%, Gen X: 44%, boomers: 35%
- Their lives overall:
- Gen Z: 58%, millennials: 69%, Gen X: 55%, boomers: 48%
Millennials’ optimistic streak continues to assessments of society’s future in general and their own future in particular. Majorities across generations report optimism for the future.
Over 4 in 5 millennials (84%) report feeling optimistic about their futures, compared to 78% of Gen Z, 77% of Gen X, and 80% of boomers. Nearly 3 in 4 millennials (73%) feel optimistic for the future of society overall. Majorities of all other generations feel the same way: 64% of Gen Z, 61% of Gen X, and 55% of boomers.
A majority of millennials feels that new technology will have a positive impact on each of the following aspects of life in the U.S. five years from now:
- The U.S. economy:
- Gen Z: 47%, millennials: 63%, Gen X: 51%, boomers: 48%
- Americans’ mental health:
- Gen Z: 45%, millennials: 55%, Gen X: 43%, boomers: 29%
- Americans’ physical health:
- Gen Z: 45%, millennials: 55%, Gen X: 51%, boomers: 36%
- Americans’ social habits:
- Gen Z: 48%, millennials: 57%, Gen X: 44%, boomers: 28%
- Americans overall:
- Gen Z: 53%, millennials: 62%, Gen X: 46%, boomers: 41%
As with most societal advances, reasons for optimism and pessimism abound. Americans are generally receptive to new technology, though that openness is tempered by recent experience with social media. Cautious optimism characterizes their general outlook, though that doesn’t prevent their longing for “simpler” times.
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