The Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) has released a massive survey today that shows just how important the internet has become to most Californians’ lives and has major implications as to how Californians are getting their information about their communities, news in general and political news, variable access to the internet by different demographic groups, and that there is strong support for local government provided broadband access.
The PPIC survey is based on the opinions of 2,253 California adults—a very large sample with a margin of error of just 2%--and runs to 40 pages. Much of what it contains confirms trends and changes that have been chronicled before—the young, the wealthier, and the urban tend to use the internet more—but there are lots of surprises and a lot of data that folks will be analyzing and talking about for some time.
Bear in mind in interpreting this data that it is of California adults—not registered voters, likely voters, or even those who are citizens. The PPIC painstakingly interviewed many Californians in their own language and has sought a large representative sample of those residing within our borders.
Here are just some of the main findings before we go into some specifics:
- Although the percentage of Californians using computers has not grown since 2000, the share who say they use the Internet has increased five points. Californians’ usage is also similar to that of adults nationwide.
- Californians value access to the web: Nearly all Internet users (92%) say it is at least somewhat important in everyday life, and even 56 percent of those who don’t go online agree.
- 72% of Californians have a personal computer in their home and 63% have an internet connection at home, with 55% saying they have broadband.
- 75% use a computer at home, work, or school and 70% access the web or send and receive emails.
- 55% use the internet to get news on current events, including 47% who use the net to get information about their community and 46% who use it to get new or information about politics. Compared to other activities (purchasing, getting medical information, visiting a government website, for information for work, or banking), this is the highest use of the internet.
- The digital divide exists, primarily as to Latinos. Less than half of Latinos (48%) have home computers compared to about eight in 10 or more for whites (86%), Asians (84%), and blacks (79%). Just four in 10 Latinos (40%) have Internet access and a third (34%) broadband connection at home. In contrast, majorities in other racial or ethnic groups have both Internet access and broadband.
- Since 2000, computer use has grown among whites (79% to 85%) and blacks (76% to 83%), as has Internet use (70% to 81% for whites, 60% to 82% for blacks). Among Latinos, computer use has declined (64% to 58%) and Internet use is unchanged (47% to 48%). Asians have seen declines in both their use of computers (91% to 81%) and the Internet (84% to 80%).
- 66% access the internet at last once a day from home and 52% do so from work.
- 75% of Californians have a cell phone and of them, 57% use them to send or receive text messages, 26% to send or receive email, and 25% to access the internet—with a large age gap—41% of those between age 18 and 34 use their cell phones to access the internet.
- 41% say the government is doing “just enough” to improve access and availability of broadband, while 30% say not enough and 10% say we are doing more than enough.
- By a 67% to 26% margin, Californians think it is a good idea for local governments to provide internet access to residents, after being told that some have considered providing wireless broadband access for free.
- By 65% to 27% margin, Californians think that those in lower-income areas are less likely to have access to broadband, and by 55% to 30% they say the same about rural areas.
- By 62% to 34% Californians are concerned that those in lower income areas have less access and by 51% to 43% they are concerned about this as to rural areas.
Analysis of Some of the Many Findings
I encourage readers to take a look at the PPIC Statewide Survey: Californians And InformationTechnology which has summaries of the data as there is a lot here that cannot be conveyed in one article.
Use of the Internet for News About Politics
For me and perhaps readers of these pages, one of the most interesting set of statistics in this survey involves the numbers of Californians who use the internet to get news on current events, and in particular those who use it to get political news.
55% of the respondents say they use the net to get news on current events and 46% overall report using the net to get news or information about politics. As reported earlier, this is the highest use of the internet compared to other uses surveyed. Presumably the percentage would be significantly higher for those who are registered voters and even higher for likely voters.
There is an age divide here—with 52% of those between 18 and 34 getting news or information about politics from the web compared with only 33% of those 55 and above. There is also a large gap between those with under $40,000 of household income (27%) and those between $40,000 and $79,999 (57%) and those with over $80,000 (65%) who get their political news through the net.
A large drop off on this question also is present as to Latinos (29%). And there are interesting regional differences, with San Francisco/Bay area residents having a high 56% on this question and Los Angeles area residents having a lower 42% response, and the Central Valley 38% and Inland Empire 39% rates. There isn’t that much different between urban areas (46%) and rural areas (40%).
The internet clearly seen as an important source of information by Californians’ in their daily lives—with 80% (51% very important, 29% somewhat important) versus 18% not too important or not at all important. Even in the lowest response for age groups—those 55 and over, 65% describe the internet as important in this regard.79% of Latinos say it is important.
And the same overwhelming response is carried through all regions, income groups, and is virtually the same between rural and urban residents. As mentioned earlier, 92% of those who use the internet say it is important and even 56% of those who do not agree. In fact 30% of those who do not use the internet say it is “very important.”
Support for Government Doing More for Internet Access
There is support for the government doing more to improve access to the internet. While 41% say the government is doing “just enough”, those who have a different opinion break three to one (30% to 10%) saying we do not do enough. There are large percentages of Democrats (36% to 7%) and independents (33% to 9%) saying more should be done and a close division of Republicans (22% to 14%) saying we do more than enough.
And there is support overall 67% to 26% to provide wireless broadband access by local governments to residents—including large majorities of Democrats (75% to 19%) and independents (64% to 27%) and Republicans are fairly divided on this question with 45% saying it is a good idea and 48% saying it is a bad idea. This idea is supported by likely voters 57% to 35%.
As reported earlier, Californians see a problem in disparities amongst access to the internet by those who are poor and those who live in rural areas and the data shows there is a digital divide.
Other Interesting Information
There also are interesting statistics about adult Californians visiting the websites of their children’s school, with increasing visits as children progress from elementary, to middle, and then to high school and those who access their children’s homework through the internet or emails.
92% of internet users respond they are comfortable using “the tools of modern information technology” and this is highest with those with more education and with younger Californians, but is still at a 90% level with high school graduates and 86% with those 55 and above who use the internet. 95% of internet users say they are comfortable in using the internet to get the information needed in everyday life.
When it comes to keeping things like computer viruses, spyware, and adware off of one’s home computer, “only” 73% of Californians are confident and 255 are not. The confidence level as to financial transactions on the internet being secure and private is 695 to 29% and increases dramatically with increased income.
By Frank Russo, Publisher, The California Progress Report
Originally published on The California Progress Report as "More Californians Getting News Online—Digital Divide Most Pronounced With Latinos—Support for Local Government Provided Broadband Access—According to New PPIC Survey." Republishd with permission.
Another article by Frank: