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Internet now used by 87% of American adults, says poll

While its no surprise that most Americans use the Internet, Pew Research says 68 percent of them now hop online through phones and tablets.

Lance Whitney Contributing Writer
Lance Whitney is a freelance technology writer and trainer and a former IT professional. He's written for Time, CNET, PCMag, and several other publications. He's the author of two tech books--one on Windows and another on LinkedIn.
Lance Whitney
2 min read

Almost 90 percent of American adults surveyed use the Internet, and almost all say that the Internet has been a good thing for them personally.

Among the 1,000 American adults surveyed by Pew Research in January, 87 percent now use the Internet. That number is even higher for certain groups. Internet use was claimed by 99 percent of people in households that earn $75,000 or more, 97 percent of adults ages 18-29, and 97 percent of those with college degrees.

A full 68 percent of those polled connect to the Internet via mobile devices. On a related note, ownership of cell phones jumped to 90 percent in the new poll from 53 percent in Pew's first survey back in 2000. Smartphone ownership surged to 58 percent this year from 35 percent in 2011.

How do the people surveyed view the Internet and technology in general?

The Internet was seen as a good thing personally for 90 percent of those polled, a bad thing by only 6 percent, and a combination of the two by 3 percent. And the Internet was deemed a good thing for society by 76 percent, a bad thing by 15 percent, and a mixture of the two by 8 percent.

A hefty 53 percent of all Internet users said the Internet would be "very hard" to give up, with most of those citing job-related reasons or other essential needs. And 49 percent of cell phone owners said the same thing about their devices.

The Internet is sometimes perceived as unfriendly territory due to the nasty comments, hostility, and arguments that mark many online forums and other sites. But 70 percent of those polled said they'd been treated kindly or generously by their fellow Internet users. Only 25 percent reported that they were treated unkindly or had been attacked.

Further, 56 percent said they've seen online groups help a person or community resolve a problem. Only 25 percent said they left an online group because the interaction was too heated or the members were unpleasant to each other.

Pew conducted its latest poll to mark the upcoming 25th anniversary of the World Wide Web. Though the Web actually launched in 1991, parent Tim Berners-Lee wrote his initial proposal for a "distributed hypertext system" in March 1989.