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Europeans attitudes towards robots 2012

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04 November 2012



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Credit: Infonaut, AEC
Europeans attitudes towards robots
Overall EU citizens have a positive view of robots: more than two-thirds of Europeans are of this opinion, according to a Special Eurobarometer survey. However, further analyses show that the public are clear that while robots serve a utilitarian purpose and are useful for tasks that are too dangerous or difficult for humans, their use nevertheless requires careful management. EU citizens express widespread concern that robots could steal people’s jobs; however, a sizable minority consider that robots could boost job opportunities in the EU.
The survey shows that support for the use of robots is greatest in areas where the tasks are too difficult or too dangerous for humans, such as space exploration and manufacturing, but there is outright opposition to their use to take care of people. This also means that EU citizens would feel very uncomfortable if a robot were used to look after their children or elderly parents or even to walk their dog, although they can tolerate the idea of a robot assisting them at work. 
North-South divide
Credit: Infonaut/Honda
The survey shows a North-South divide when it comes to attitudes to robots, with EU citizens in the northern countries holding far more positive views than in the southern countries. In Sweden and Denmark 88% of respondents express a positive attitude, while 44% of respondents in Greece and 35% in Portugal express negative attitudes.  The perception that robots steal people’s jobs is greater in countries badly affected by the economic crisis than in some of the more resilient Western-European economies.  
Personal experience of robots  
Few EU citizens have experience of using robots:  in total, 12% have used or currently use a robot: six percent have experience of the use of a robot at home and six percent have used or currently use a robot at work. Conversely, 87% of EU citizens have never used a robot in their lives.  
Robots@home
Credit: Infonaut, Wakamaru
When asked about the prospects for robots performing tasks in the home, respondents in countries with generally more positive attitudes towards robots tend to think that it will be 10 more years whereas in countries with a more skeptical stance towards robots the tendency is to think that it will take more than 20 years.
The survey presents the results of a Special Eurobarometer survey into public attitudes towards robots. The aim of the survey is to gauge public opinion towards robots by measuring public perceptions, acceptance levels, worries  and reservations among EU citizens aged 15 and over in the 27 Member States. The survey was conducted by TNS Opinion & Social at the request of  Directorate-General for Information Society and Media (INFSO). 


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Wolfgang Heller





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