We Still (Mostly) Like the Internet

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A Pew Research Center survey of U.S. adults conducted in January 2018 finds the vast majority of internet users (88%) say the internet has been a mostly good thing for them personally.

However, Americans are somewhat more ambivalent about the impact of digital connectivity on society as a whole. A majority of online adults (70%) believe the internet has been a good thing for society. The share of online adults saying this has declined by 6 percentage points since early 2014, when the Center first asked the question.

This shift in opinion regarding the ultimate social impact of the internet is particularly stark among older Americans. Today 64% of online adults ages 65 and older say the internet has been a mostly good thing for society. That represents a 14-point decline from the 78% who said this in 2014. The attitudes of younger adults have remained more consistent over that time: 74% of internet users ages 18 to 29 say the internet has been mostly good for society, comparable to the 79% who said so in 2014.

 

Positive Views Are Tied to Information Access and Connecting with Others

Those who think the internet has had a good impact on society tend to focus on two key issues:

  • 62% of those with a positive view mentioned how the internet makes information much easier and faster to access
  • 23% of those with a positive view mentioned the ability to connect with other people

By contrast, those who think the internet is a bad thing for society gave a wider range of reasons for their opinions:

  • 25% say the internet isolates people from each other or encourages them to spend too much time with their devices
  • 14% cite concerns about its effect on children
  • 13% believe it encourages illegal activity
  • 5% have privacy concerns or worries about sensitive personal information being available online

Many are Smartphone Internet Users at Home

One-in-five Americans (20%) are now “smartphone only” internet users at home. They own a smartphone but do not subscribe to traditional broadband service for home use. This represents a 7-point increase over 2015.

As has consistently been true in past surveys conducted by Pew, those who rely on their smartphones for home internet service are less likely to have attended college compared with those with traditional broadband service. They also report living in lower-income households.

Also, 15% of Americans indicate that they have neither broadband service at home nor a smartphone. A large share of this group is not online at all.

See the full Pew report.