Mercator Foundation to fund Opinion Monitor Artificial Intelligence: research project monitors opinions on AI


Esther Laukötter

Science Communication Officer

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twitter: @_MeMoKI

Mercator Foundation to fund Opinion Monitor Artificial Intelligence: research project monitors opinions on AI


Bochum, 08.06.2021


The population’s interest in artificial intelligence (AI) is surprisingly low. This is the key finding of the research project Opinion Monitor Artificial Intelligence (MeMo:KI), which the Mercator Foundation is funding with 1.1 million euros over the next three years. The continuous monitoring of public and published opinion on artificial intelligence is yielding exciting results: AI technologies can count on more approval in times of social distress; people believe that the technology has little potential to change their jobs and careers in the long term; the majority of the population doubts the trustworthiness of recommendation system algorithms, and welcomes measures for legal regulation.

The team led by Prof. Frank Marcinkowski from the University of Düsseldorf is working with the Center for Advanced Internet Studies (CAIS) in Bochum, where a unit will promote discussion on AI topics with civil society, politics and in the media. Once a month, the research team asks 1,000 randomly selected citizens about their opinions and behavior regarding AI topics: “We can depict the current climate of opinion as well as identify shifts in opinion among the population at an early stage. Interested parties can view our findings on our interactive homepage”, says Pero Došenović, project team member at the University of Düsseldorf.


What are the media’s visions of AI?

His colleague Kimon Kieslich is responsible for analyzing media coverage: “Because media coverage plays an important role in shaping democratic opinion, this is an important component of our project. It is also interesting for journalists and how they observe themselves. For example, they can see which topics and actors are picked up in news portals and on Twitter, and which are not”. The continuous survey is flanked by special studies: for example, on the question of whether AI will play a role as an issue in the 2021 federal elections. The website presents the research results from the thematically diverse special studies as comprehensible “fact sheets”.

The MeMo:KI project builds on preliminary work at CAIS. Together with the research team at the University of Düsseldorf and with funding from the Ministry of Culture and Science of the state of North Rhine-Westphalia (MKW), the pilot phase of the project was successfully implemented until March 2021. Since the empirical observation tool was developed, the project has continuously investigated the dynamic development of opinion and media coverage.


About the project:

As part of the Opinion Monitor Artificial Intelligence (MeMo:KI), we use a survey repeated monthly and published on the website to gauge the population’s opinion on artificial intelligence. The joint project involving the University of Düsseldorf and the Center for Advanced Internet Studies (CAIS) in Bochum will be funded by the Mercator Foundation in the second project phase until April 2024. Besides the regular representative survey, there is a partially automated evaluation of German media coverage on the topic. The results of both surveys are freely available to the public. “We are preparing the results of our research in an online format with interactive graphics and tables so that all interested citizens can take a look for themselves at how society and the media are dealing with the topic of artificial intelligence”, says study director Prof. Dr. Frank Marcinkowski.