Technology is transforming the world around us and this brings a combination of excitement and opportunity, but also challenges to our way of life, labor markets and societies. To tackle the great technological transformation of our time, public and private actors need to understand what is legitimate in the eyes of the citizens and what sort of technological future they may be ready to embrace. Our annual survey, European Tech Insights, explores attitudes towards technological change with the aim of understanding how technology is transforming our lives and how it should be governed.
In a context of geopolitical conflict, European Tech Insights 2022 focuses on the concerns of citizens about cyberattacks, the spread of fake news and the harmful use of technology. It also looks into digital rights, automation and the future of work, and the digitalization of money.
A majority (56,4%) also believe technology has improved their democratic participation.
An wide majority (65,9%) affirm that their opinion about the Russian government has deteriorated.
Most of them also believe disinformation and fake news are the main problem associated with social media.
Yet a wide majority (60.4%) do not believe their job will be automated within the next 10 years.
More than a third (34.8%) also believe an AI algorithm would be more productive at work than their bosses.
2022 has marked the return of war to the European continent and the comeback of geopolitics to the global stage. With the end of the era-defining Covid pandemic in sight, Europeans are now faced with yet another systemic crisis that permeates political, economic, and technological dimensions and threatens to dash our hopes of prosperity and better futures. European Tech Insights 2022 sheds light into the perceptions of citizens with regards to the Ukrainian conflict, the impact of technology on democracy, digital rights, the adoption of emerging technologies and the digitalisation of money.
Technology and the Ukraine War
The current geopolitical climate has led to heightened fears of cyber-attacks and the perception among Europeans that fake news is the main problem associated with social media:
– A wide majority of Europeans (67.3%) are worried about a potential cyberattack on critical infrastructure in their country. Citizens of Eastern European countries are most worried (76.7% of Poles and 73.3% of Romanians).
– A majority of Europeans (65.9%) affirm that their opinion about the Russian government has deteriorated or deteriorated significantly. This majority holds in every European country polled: (from 79% of negative opinions in Poland to 63% in Italy).
– An overwhelming majority of Europeans (68.8%) believe the invasion of Ukraine means a paradigm shift to the current world order.
Democracies at Risk
Two years on from the COVID-19 pandemic and 7 months from Russian’s invasion of Ukraine, our survey shows that Europeans believe fake news and disinformation are one the most pressing issues of the digital age.
– More than half of Europeans (51.5%) want disinformation to be illegal and believe their country should sanction those who spread fake news on social media. All European countries polled except Romania and Italy agree. UK (62.8%), Spain (60.4%) and Germany (58.3%) are the countries that favour the most this measure.
– Most Europeans (42.3%) believe disinformation and fake news are the main problem associated with social media.
Nonetheless, the report also highlights that many citizens support the use of technology by their governments and believe technology is strengthening democracy.
– Almost two thirds of Europeans (64%) believe that technology is strengthening democracy. UK (42.2%) and Spain (43.7%) have the smallest share of citizens who agree with this statement, while Romanian (83.7%), Estonian (83.5%) and Polish (82.7%) citizens are the most enthusiastic.
– A majority of Europeans (56.4%) believe technology has improved their participation in the democratic process. Younger generations are more optimistic about the impact of technology on democratic participation (64.5% for 18-24-year-olds) than older ones (48.7% for 75+ year-olds).
– A large majority of European citizens (57.4%) support the right to disconnect. Stronger support is seen among Millennials and Generation Z citizens. Spaniards are the most supportive of the measure: three fourths of Spanish citizens agree with the right of disengaging from digital communications after work.
– Almost 60% of European citizens would like to be able to switch to public services online, even if this meant closing some physical offices. Even large majorities of those aged 65 – 74 and 75+ agree with the proposal.
– A significant number (42.5%) of young Europeans (18 – 24 years old) are willing to pay more taxes to be able to provide internet for free to those who can’t afford it. It is especially the case in the Netherlands (63.3%), Estonia (55%) and Romania (55%).
Automation and Emerging Technologies
Europeans are moderately optimistic about the future of work, as most of them believe AI and automation will bring about more meaningful jobs:
– More than a third of Europeans – and a majority of those under 35 years old – believe an AI algorithm would be more productive at work than their boss.
– A wide majority of Europeans (60.4%) do not believe their job will be automated within the next 10 years. Lowest rates are found in the UK and Germany (9%).
Nonetheless, for three years in a row, a large proportion of Europeans favour limiting automation by law in order to save jobs. Support for the measure remains particularly high in France (62.7%) and Spain (55.7%).
The Digitalization of Money
The report also reveals rising adoption of cryptocurrencies, with more than a third of Europeans preferring to use digital currency rather than cash, and with over 42% of citizens under 25 supporting making Bitcoin legal tender.
– Many Europeans (41.3%) under 35 favour digital currencies over cash. Romanians (51.7%), Swedes (48.7%) and Estonians (47.4%) are the most enthusiastic about the use of digital currencies over cash.
Our study thus exposes deep contradictions among the European population: citizens are concerned about the use of technology in conflict yet have faith in technology when it comes to strengthening our democratic values. They worry about technological progress when it comes to automation at the workplace yet are happy to adopt emerging tech if it makes their lives easier. Understanding these contradictions and the challenges that technology brings to the citizens informs a very much needed policy debate on the governance of emerging technologies.
You can download European Tech Insights 2022 above.
European Tech Insights 2022 was conducted in June and July 2022. We interviewed 3.005 adults from 10 countries. Samples were representative in terms of age and sex. Respondents are part of recurrent panels recruited by Netquest or affiliated companies into panels via social media, direct mailing or through referrals from other respondents.
European Tech Insights 2021 is composed of two studies: Part I focused on how the pandemic has altered our habits and perceptions with regards to healthcare, work, social networks and the urban space. Part II revealed how Europeans are embracing technologies (from AI to automation) and what are the implications for our democracies and societies.
European Tech Insights 2020 revealed how the onset of the pandemic had a major impact on global attitudes towards data privacy, politcs and the regulation of new technologies.
European Tech Insights 2019 confirmed a shared intuition among researchers: the Fourth Industrial Revolution is producing a growing sense of insecurity and uncertainty among our fellow citizens.
To find out more download our reports above.