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Internet has become a necessity, U.S. poll shows

December 7, 1998
Web posted at: 10:00 AM EST

by Mary Lisbeth D'Amico


(IDG) -- If you were stranded on a desert island and could have access to the Internet, a telephone, or a television, which would you choose?

If you said TV or phone, you are in the minority among U.S. online users -- at least, according to America Online (AOL). In a poll released Thursday of 1,001 U.S. online users with Internet access from their home, 67 percent said they would choose a computer with Internet access if they were marooned on a desert island for an extended period of time. Another 23 percent chose a phone, while only 9 percent opted for television.

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The poll was conducted in August by AOL and market research firm Roper Starch Worldwide.

About 87 percent of those polled said they would miss online access if it were no longer available to them, and 64 percent who have been going online from home for three years or more say they would miss online access "a lot," and that "using an online or Internet service is just about a necessity to me," the study said.

Roughly three quarters of those polled said that being online has made their lives better, according to the study. Eight in 10 people said the Internet makes many activities easier and more convenient, and among those with children, half said that being online has a more positive influence on their kids than watching television.

Many respondents were unwilling to quit going online while on vacation. Of those respondents that owned a laptop computer, 47 percent said they take it with them on vacation, and about 26 percent of all users said they check their e-mail on vacation.

Some 94 percent of those polled said going online makes it easier to communication with family and friends, with 87 percent regularly doing so. However, differences in usage emerged according to age group. Online users over the age of 50 are more likely to use the Internet to manage and plan their finances, while those between the ages of 18 and 24 are more likely to use it to socialize, the study said.

Getting a profile of the typical user, about 65 percent of the online population is over age 35. Users are more likely to have graduated from college, be married, have children under the age of 18, and to represent a higher median household income bracket than the American public at large, according to the study.

Mary Lisbeth D'Amico is a correspondent in the Munich bureau of the IDG News Service.

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