Could asking GPT-3 replace human surveys in political polling?

Future political pollsters could be asking the AI instead of polling real people on their political views and voting intentions.

A team of political and computer scientists from Brigham Young University in the US, has demonstrated large language model GPT-3 can accurately reflect political views and voting intentions for specific groups of people.

They set up GPT-3 to mimic demographic populations based on certain characteristics like race, age, ideology and religion. 

They then asked the AI for its voting preferences in the 2012, 2016 and 2020 US presidential elections.

Comparing the results with the American National Election Studies human database, there was high correspondence between the AI and humans voting intentions.

“I was absolutely surprised to see how accurately it matched up,” said David Wingate, BYU computer science professor, and co-author of the study published in Political Analysis.

In another experiment, the researchers created artificial AI personas to respond to a more nuanced interview-style survey. Again, they found high similarity between the responses from the AI mimic and humans.

The researchers say this suggests the possibility of using AI to simulate populations as a way to run polls, or test political slogans and taglines.

“It can help us be more efficient in our work with people by allowing us to pre-test our surveys and our messaging,” says BYU political science professor Ethan Busby. 

The study notes GPT-3 can closely represent public opinion in the United States, suggesting it could be used in social science research. But while there would be cost benefits, the researchers note the tool has “dangerous potential” if used to target specific human groups with misinformation, manipulation, fraud.

Busby adds surveying artificial personas shouldn’t replace the need to survey real people and that experts need to define the ethical boundaries for the use of AI in social science surveys and research.

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