Half of Americans Now 'Frequent' Internet Users as Digital Divide Narrows

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Includes: AABA, GOOG, MSFT
by: Marketing Charts

Americans’ frequent use of the internet has nearly doubled over the past five years with 48% of adults - many in groups that have historically been less frequent users - now reporting that they use the Internet more than one hour per day, compared with 26% in 2002, according to results from a recent Gallup Poll.

Though internet use is up overall, the poll of more than 1,000 Americans reveals that large education, income, and age gaps still exist in terms of internet usage. Those with advanced degrees, those who make more than than $75K per year, and those under age 30 continue to be the most frequent users, with more than 60% in each group reporting they go online more than one hour per day.

On the other hand, the least educated, least affluent, and oldest Americans are those who least often use the internet, with about one-third or fewer in each group saying they use the internet more than one hour per day. Smaller, though noteworthy, gaps also exist between men and women, and the employed vs. the non-working, Gallup said.

There are signs, however, that the digital divide is slowly narrowing. Several demographic groups in the lower income, lower education and older age brackets posted gains in frequent internet use in the past year that were significantly greater than the five-percentage-point gain measured among adults nationwide.

The five groups posting double-digit gains:

  • Those making less than $30,000 per year
  • Those who are not working
  • The unmarried
  • Those under age 30
  • Those with post-graduate educations

Men and those 65+ round out the groups posting gains greater than the national average, while women showed a negligible change in usage, Gallup said.

Moreover, in an apparent reversal of trend, those ages 30-49 and those making $75K or more per year were slightly less likely than one year ago to report using the internet more than one hour each day.

“Business leaders - and advertisers in particular - will be well-served to keep these burgeoning trends in mind. While targeting content toward the most educated, most affluent, and youngest Americans may be an effective strategy today, the growth evident among their counterparts at the other end of the spectrum suggests new strategies may be needed to cater to the frequent internet users of tomorrow,” Gallup said.

About the poll: Results are based on telephone interviews with 1,009 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted Dec. 4-7, 2008. Interviews are conducted with respondents on land-line telephones (for respondents with a land-line telephone) and cellular phones (for respondents who are cell-phone only).