Fewer robots could have handed Hillary Clinton victory over Donald Trump in US elections, Oxford professor's research suggests

 
Lynsey Barber
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Automation of jobs is connected with politics, fresh research suggest (Source: Getty)

Could robots have helped Donald Trump win the US election? New research suggests so, according to a top Oxford academic.

And he's not talking Russian social media bots, either, despite the concern over their influence. It actually has to do with automation.

A study led by Oxford Martin School's Dr Carl Frey suggests that just a two per cent lower rate of adoption of robots across industries since 2012 could have handed victory to Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump.

Read more: Four in five retail jobs will "vanish" to robots, experts predict

Districts where exposure to automation was greater were more likely to support Trump, also taking into account their exposure to other factors such as globalisation, immigration and general manufacturing decline.

The group of researchers, who have published a new working paper on the research, found that the lower adoption rate in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin could have feasibly swung them for Clinton handing her a majority.

“Our study suggests that automation has been the real cause of voters concern," said Frey.

"The prime victims of the ‘robot revolution’ want anything but the status quo. The populist rebellion in America, Europe, and elsewhere, has many causes, but workers’ losing out to technology is seemingly the main reason.”

And Frey believes that with 47 per cent of US jobs at risk of automation that "further political rebellion is likely, unless we make sure that the benefits of automation become more widely shared".

"The way the industrial revolution transformed manufacturing, a “de-industrial revolution” is underway that is promising to revolutionize services in similar fashion," he said.

However, the notable difference between the two eras is that ordinary workers did not have the vote back then.

Read more: How robots could reduce the age at which you retire

"If voters come to see automation as the cause of their misfortunes, they opt for a political system that restricts it and the potential of artificial intelligence may not be made possible," he said.

"It is therefore in everyone’s interest to make the benefits of automation more widely shared to avoid the possibility of a backlash against technology itself."

Frey's research into automation and its effect on employment has been cited by the Bank of England and he is one of the world's leading researchers in this area.

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