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Americans Worry AI Deception Will Affect 2024 Elections

More than three-fourths of Americans expect that abuses of artificial intelligence will affect the 2024 presidential election, according to a new national survey.

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(TNS) — More than three-fourths of Americans expect that abuses of artificial intelligence will affect the 2024 presidential election, according to a new national survey.

The possible uses include manipulating social media by generating false information from fake accounts or bots, generating fake video and audio material, and targeting some voters to convince them not to vote.

In all, 78% of those surveyed by the Elon Poll and the Imagining the Digital Future Center at Elon University say at least one of these abuses of AI will affect the presidential election outcome, and more than half think all three abuses are at least somewhat likely to occur.

"Voters think this election will unfold in an extraordinarily challenging news and information environment," said Lee Rainie, director of the Imagining the Digital Future Center, which studies the impact of digital change. "They anticipate that new kinds of misinformation, faked material and voter-manipulation tactics are being enabled by AI. What's worse, many aren't sure they can sort through the garbage they know will be polluting campaign-related content."

The survey was conducted from April 19-21 among a recruited sample of 1,020 U.S. adults. It has a margin of error of 3.2 percentage points, Elon Poll says.

Fully 93% of those surveyed think some penalty should be applied to candidates who maliciously and intentionally alter or fake photos, videos or audio files.

Nearly half, 46%, think the punishment should be removal from office.

More than a third, 36%, say offenders should face criminal prosecution.

By a nearly 8-1 margin, more Americans feel the use of AI will hurt the coming election than help it: 39% say it will hurt, and 5% think it will help. Some 37% say they are not sure.

Americans' concerns about the use and impact of AI systems occur in a challenging and confusing news and information environment. A slight majority (52%) is not confident they can detect altered or faked audio material, and only slightly fewer are not confident they can detect altered videos or photos.

And they have far more faith in their own ability to detect fakes than in the ability of others to do it: About 7-in-10 are not confident in most voters' ability to detect photos, videos and audio that have been altered or faked.

Jason Husser, professor of political science and director of the Elon Poll, said that while misinformation in elections is nothing new, many worry about the sophistication of AI technology as an accessible tool to spread misinformation at an unprecedented scale.

"We know that most voters are aware of AI risks to the 2024 election. However, the behavioral implications of that awareness will remain unclear until we see the aftermath of AI-generated misinformation," he said. "An optimistic hope is that risk-aware voters may approach information in the 2024 cycle with heightened caution, leading them to become more sophisticated consumers of political information. A pessimistic outlook is that worries about AI-misinformation might translate into diminished feelings of self-efficacy, institutional trust and civic engagement."

© 2024 The High Point Enterprise (High Point, N.C.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.