Mail and News Are Main Internet Attractions

by Lydia Saad

Some e-commerce picking up; blogs still marginal

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ -- A recent Gallup Poll examining Americans' online habits finds e-mail use almost universal among the three-quarters of U.S. adults who use the Internet. Checking the news and weather ranks second on the list of 13 Internet activities measured, although not as many Americans surf for news frequently as e-mail frequently.

According to Gallup's latest Lifestyle survey, conducted Dec. 5-8, 2005, 73% of Americans use the Internet, while 27% never use it.

Web users were asked whether they participate in each of 13 Internet activities "frequently," "occasionally," "rarely," or "never." In addition to e-mailing and reading news, a majority of online Americans today use the Internet on at least some occasions for shopping, making travel plans, and finding medical advice. Half of adult Internet users say they have paid bills online, although only a quarter frequently do this.

Playing games, using instant messaging, budgeting personal finances, watching video Webcasts, and participating in online auctions (such as eBay) are activities limited to smaller percentages of adult Internet users.

The least pervasive uses of the Internet, however, are reading "blogs" (i.e., Web logs) and downloading music. Only a third of Internet users indicate they ever engage in these activities online, and only a small fraction do so frequently.

Usage Summary

Perhaps the best summary indicator of Web activity is the percentage of Internet users who engage in each activity frequently or occasionally. On this basis, 87% are active users of e-mail, 52% use the Internet for shopping and travel planning, 40% pay bills online, 23% participate in online auctions, and 20% read blogs.

No Major Trends

Remarkably little has changed in reported Internet usage over the past two years. Of the nine activities measured in December 2003, the only notable differences are modest increases in the percentages using the Internet for making travel arrangements and paying bills, and a slight decline in the percentage using instant messaging.

% Do Activity Frequently/Occasionally

2003

2005

Change

%

%

Pct. pts.

Paying bills online

29

40

+11

Making travel plans

44

52

+8

Checking news and weather

68

72

+4

Sending and reading e-mail

84

87

+3

Shopping

49

52

+3

Finding medical advice

38

41

+3

Budgeting personal finances

26

29

+3

Playing games

31

28

-3

Using instant messaging

34

28

-6

Modest Gender Gaps

Only a few significant gender differences exist in Internet activity, and these are relatively minor.

Men are slightly more likely than women to seek news and weather online (76% of men do this frequently or occasionally, versus 68% of women). Men are also more likely to read blogs (24% vs. 17%) and participate in online auctions (27% vs. 19%).

Women are more likely to use e-mail (91% of women vs. 83% of men) and seek medical advice (46% vs. 36%).

Some Generational Differences Seen

There is a distinction among Internet activities between those used almost equally by all age groups, and those oriented to younger adults.

Online activities showing no major generational divide include e-mailing, checking news and weather, playing games, and budgeting personal finances.

Similar Internet Activity Among Age Groups
(Among Internet Users)


18-29

30-49

50-64

65+

%

%

%

%

E-mail

86

87

88

82

News and weather

66

77

74

62

Playing games

34

24

26

32

Budgeting personal finances

26

33

27

19

Online activities in which substantially higher usage is seen among those under 65 include paying bills, shopping, and participating in online auctions.

Activities Oriented to Those Under 65
(Among Internet Users)


18-29

30-49

50-64

65+

%

%

%

%

Paying bills

45

46

35

16

Shopping

42

61

54

27

Online auctions

22

25

24

10

Instant messaging, downloading music, reading blogs, and watching video Webcasts or video clips are skewed to an even younger audience. Those 18 to 49 or 18 to 29 are much more likely than those 65 and older to be doing these activities.

Activities Oriented to Younger Adults
(Among Internet Users)


18-29

30-49

50-64

65+

%

%

%

%

Instant messaging

45

25

22

15

Downloading music

35

25

8

12

Reading blogs

28

20

17

17

Viewing video Webcasts

27

25

16

7

Two activities appear to have niche markets among middle-aged Americans. Most of Generation X and the youngest baby boomers (those 30 to 49) are the group most likely to use the Internet for making travel plans. Pre-retirees (those 50 to 64) are especially likely to seek medical advice online.

Middle-Aged Attractions
(Among Internet Users)


18-29

30-49

50-64

65+

Making travel plans

40%

58

50

45

Finding medical advice

29%

42

54

30

Survey Methods

These results are based on telephone interviews with a randomly selected national sample of 1,013 adults, aged 18 and older, conducted Dec. 5-8, 2005. For results based on this sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum error attributable to sampling and other random effects is ±3 percentage points. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

25. How much time, if at all, do you personally spend using the Internet -- more than an hour a day, up to one hour a day, a few times a week, a few times a month or less, or never?

More
than
an hour


Up to
one hour


A few
times a
week

A few
times a
month
or less

Never

No
opin-
ion

%

%

%

%

%

%

2005 Dec 5-8

33

18

13

9

27

*

2004 Dec 5-8

32

16

19

8

25

*

2003 Dec 11-14

27

20

15

10

27

1

2002 Dec 5-8

26

16

18

12

28

*

* Less than 0.5%

26. How often do you, yourself, use the Internet to do the following -- frequently, occasionally, rarely, or never? How about for -- [RANDOM ORDER]?

BASED ON 759 INTERNET USERS

Internet Activities Summary Table

2005 Dec 5-8
(sorted by "frequently/
occasionally")

Fre-
quently

Fre-
quently/
Occasion-
ally

EVER
(Fre-
quently/
Occasion-
ally/
Rarely)

Never

%

%

%

%

Sending and reading e-mail

67

87

93

7

Checking news and weather

45

72

83

17

Shopping

18

52

71

29

Making travel plans

19

52

71

29

Finding medical advice

10

41

68

32

Paying bills online

27

40

50

50

Budgeting personal finances

17

29

41

58

Playing games

16

28

44

56

Using instant messaging

16

28

42

58

Buying or selling products in online auctions

7

23

40

60

Watching video Webcasts

8

22

40

60

Downloading music

10

22

34

66

Reading "blogs"

9

20

33

66

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Gallup http://www.gallup.com/poll/21310/Mail-News-Main-Internet-Attractions.aspx
Gallup World Headquarters, 901 F Street, Washington, D.C., 20001, U.S.A
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