Pew: 76% See Internet As Positive Force On Society

With the World Wide Web preparing to turn 25 years old on March 12, the Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project has issued a new report and national survey showing that Internet usage has reached near saturation levels among younger demos and that its impact on themselves and society at large is generally very positive.

A notable example of its impact is the fact that 53% of all adult internet users aged 18 and older say it would be "very hard" to give up the Internet, versus 34% for television, according to a new national survey conducted between January 9 and 12 among 1006 U.S. adults aged 18 and older by the Pew Research Center.

This is a notable change from 2006, when only 38% said it would be very hard to give up the Internet and 44% said it would be very hard to give up TV.

That survey found that 87% of Americans were using the Internet in 2014, up from 14% in 1995 and 46% in 2000. Much higher usage can be found in more affluent adults with household incomes of more than $75,000 (99%), young adults ages 18 to 29 (97%) and those with college degrees (97%).

While there has been considerable debate over what Pew calls "the pluses and minuses of connected life," the survey found that "the public's verdict is overwhelmingly positive."

About 90% of those surveyed said the Internet had been a good thing for them personally versus only 6% saying it was a bad thing and 76% said it had been good for society, versus 15% labeling it a "bad thing" and 8% calling it "equally good and bad."

"The Web at 25" is the first of eight reports that the Pew Research Center plans to release leading up to the World Wide Web milestone, which traces its birthday to March 12 1989, when Sir Tim Berners-Lee wrote a paper proposing an "information management" system. This became the conceptual and architectural structure for the Web, which became a major layer of the Internet.

"The rise of the Web is one of the biggest stories about the growing role of the internet in global life," noted Lee Rainie, director, of the Internet Project in a statement. "Americans clearly think that networked technologies have brought clear personal and societal benefits. Even though there are lots of stories about bad actors and new challenges in online spaces, most report that the overall cyberworld they witness and experience is a pretty nice place."

Among all adults, which includes both Internet and non-Internet users, about 46% say it would be very hard or impossible to give up, higher than cell phones (44%), television (35%), email (34%), landline telephones (17%) and social media (10%.)

The survey also found that penetration rates of related technologies has also grown rapidly, with 68% of adults using mobile devices like tablets or smartphones to connect to the Internet.