Americans’ Verdict: Many Would Prefer AI Judges to Humans, The Harris Poll Finds

New data shows large majorities of Americans believe courts are highly biased, and nearly half would trust artificial intelligence to provide a more fair outcome.

Justice is blind, as the saying goes, but nearly half of all Americans don't believe that: If they were in court, they would prefer an artificial intelligence judge to a human judge. According to new research from The Harris Poll Thought Leadership and Futures Practice, eight in 10 Americans believe the court system is biased and provides unequal justice, and more than four in 10 believe an AI judge would be more likely to provide a fair sentence.

The study's findings are outlined in Harris Poll TL's newsletter "The Next Big Think" and are based on a survey of 2,002 Americans conducted from March 31 to April 4, 2023, across representative samples of ethnic and generational demographics.  

The study's central finding is justice isn't equal today, which has Americans looking for new alternatives. A strong majority of Americans - 79% of respondents - agree "Judicial courts don't provide 'equal justice to all' even though they seek to be impartial in practice." Six out of 10 respondents (58%) overall said they knew someone who had been treated unfairly in court - and reports of mistreatment escalate with Black (79%) and Hispanic (68%) respondents.

Poll respondents also were asked about what groups were affected by courts' biases. They said courts were biased in favor of 

  • The ultra-wealthy (55% of respondents)
  • Celebrities (54%)
  • Political leaders (48%)
  • Corporations (44%)
  • White people (37%)

They said courts were biased against

  • People with prior offenses (49%) 
  • Undocumented immigrants (45%) 
  • Lower-income people (38%) 
  • Black people (35%) 
  • LGBTQIA people (35%) 

Facing the inequality of the courts, Americans are curious about new avenues for change. In fact, four in 10 respondents (43%) say "I would prefer an AI judge rather than a human one in a potential court hearing." And a majority of respondents who have been mistreated by the justice system (particularly Black and Hispanic people) would take a bet on an AI judge.  

Even the experts at The Harris Poll did not expect those findings.  

"We were surprised to learn over half of Americans think AI judges would be more equitable in sentencing, but when you take into consideration the doubts around the impartiality of our judicial system, it starts to add up," said Libby Rodney, Chief Strategy Officer at The Harris Poll.

A majority of all respondents agreed that AI could provide a variety of benefits, including: preventing long waits for court hearings (62%); countering human error and bias (60%); and providing more equitable sentences (59%).   

However, Rodney cautioned that the perceived impartiality of AI is somewhat of an illusion: "It's crucial to note AI is not necessarily neutral, as it reflects the values and biases of its creators. It's essentially 'people programming' that codifies our belief systems into a machine that reflects our values back to us."

Regardless of the solution, bipartisan majorities believe the courts are in need of reform. Eight out of 10 agreed that "Our judicial system needs to fundamentally change in order to provide unbiased justice to all" -- including 88% of Democrats and 72% of Republicans. And three-quarters (75%) agreed that "Rather than increasing freedom for all Americans, it feels like judicial courts are taking it away," including strong majorities of Democrats (81%) and Republicans (70%).

Rodney believes the lack of faith in U.S. courts we see in the data may be the result of a series of recent court decisions, from the U.S. Supreme Court's overturning of Roe v. Wade last year to lower courts' rulings on abortion access, transgender rights, and censorship issues. "The discontent directed at the Supreme Court could be spreading to the system as a whole," she said. "While the possibilities for AI to alleviate some issues foster hope, people need to see more fundamental reform in order to repair the trust between the public and the judicial system."

To learn more about The Harris Poll Thought Leadership and Futures Practice and the survey on justice in the U.S. court system, visit their Substack newsletter, The Next Big Think. 

About The Harris Poll Thought Leadership and Futures Practice 

Building on 50+ years of experience pulsing societal opinion, we design research that is credible, creative, and culturally relevant. Our practice drives thought leadership and unearths trends for today's biggest brands. We are focused on helping our clients get ahead of what's next.

Contact Information:
Madeleine Moench
[email protected]

Original Source: Americans' Verdict: Many Would Prefer AI Judges to Humans, The Harris Poll Finds
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