NEW YORK With so many Americans already using the Internet, we're past the point of seeing massive increases in the percentage of the population that's wired. However, this masks a steep increase in the past few years in the proportion of people who spend a significant amount of time online.
In a Gallup poll of adults released last week (based on polling fielded in December), 48 percent of respondents said they spend more than an hour a day using the Internet. That's up from 43 percent saying the same the previous year and from 33 percent saying so as recently as 2005.
Just in the past year, there have been significant increases in more-than-an-hour-a-day Internet use by people with income under $30,000 (from 22 percent to 32 percent), unmarried people (from 38 percent to 48 percent), 18-29-year-olds (from 50 percent to 62 percent) and people with a post-graduate education (from 56 percent to 68 percent). Though Americans in the 65-plus age bracket still lag behind younger age cohorts in heavy Internet usage, the number saying they're online more than an hour a day rose briskly, from 14 percent to 23 percent.
Cutting against the generally upward trend were downticks among respondents with income of $75,000-plus (from 65 percent to 63 percent) and 30-49-year-olds (from 56 percent to 54 percent). More surprising was a statistically significant downturn among college graduates (from 56 percent to 51 percent).
There was also a notable gender gap in the findings: While the number of men using the Internet more than an hour a day rose from 44 percent to 53 percent, the number of women doing so was essentially flat (41 percent in December 2007, 42 percent in December 2008).