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Why 15% of Americans still aren't using the Internet

Colin Neagle | Sept. 26, 2013
Most Americans who don't use the Internet are 'just not interested,' a new report has found.

A new Pew report sheds light on the still-significant population of American adults 15%, in fact who don't use the Internet.

Among those who remain offline, the most common reason given is that they're "just not interested," as cited by 21%. The next most common reason, cited by 13%, is a pretty good one "I don't have a computer."

Pew says the main reason Americans don't use the Internet is "relevance," which the research firm defined as the sentiment behind those who are disinterested, think it's a waste of time, are too busy or just don't need or want to use the Internet. This accounted for 34% of the survey's respondents.

A close second, however, was "usability," which included those who cited difficulty learning the Internet for a variety of reasons and those who were worried about virus, spam and hackers. At 32% of the respondents, Pew says "this figure is considerably higher than in earlier surveys."

Price was the third-most cited reason. At 19%, it marked a drop from the 21% who claimed price kept them offline when the survey was conducted in 2010. However, just 11% cited price in 2007, as did 16% in 2009, suggesting that cost has become a more significant barrier to Internet adoption in the past four years.

Availability and access to the Internet was an obstacle for 7% of respondents, up slightly from 6% in 2010, but down substantially from the 18% who lacked access in 2009.

As usual, Pew provided demographics for its survey respondents, and they followed a trend that was made clear in earlier editions older Americans, those with low income and/or poor education levels make up most of the offline population. Forty-four percent of respondents were 65 and older, and another 17% were aged 50 to 64. A combined 10% were aged 18 to 49, according to the report.

In terms of education, 41% had no high school diploma, compared to 22% of offline Americans who had just a high school diploma. Another 8% remained offline despite having completed "some college," and 4% of respondents had earned at least one college degree.

The respondents largely belonged to lower-income levels, with 24% earning less than $30,000 per year and another 12% between $30,000 and $49,999. Just 4% of respondents earned more than $75,000 per year.

While 63% of respondents say they would need someone to help them if they wanted to go online, another 17% claim to know enough to use the Internet. Indeed, when Pew asked respondents if they would need assistance going online, 13% said they would not want to.Another 55% of respondents backed up this claim, telling Pew that they have never asked a family member or friend to complete an online task or look something up on the Internet for them, although 44% said they have.


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