As the coronavirus outbreak has driven many commercial and social activities online, roughly half of U.S. adults (53%) say the internet has been essential for them personally during the pandemic and another 34% describe it as “important, but not essential,” according to a new Pew Research Center survey.
The new Pew survey also found:
-There are partisan differences when it comes to views about the government’s role in ensuring internet and mobile connectivity during this time. Roughly half of Democrats and Democratic leaners (52%) say it is the federal government’s responsibility to ensure all Americans have a high-speed internet connection at home during the outbreak, and 45% think it is the government’s responsibility to ensure that people have cellphone services. By comparison, smaller shares of Republicans and Republican leaners hold this view about the government ensuring home broadband access (22%) or cellphone service (21%).
-Many parents with lower incomes say it’s likely their child will face digital obstacles when trying to do schoolwork at home during outbreak. Some 43% of lower-income parents with children whose schools shut down say it is very or somewhat likely their children will have to do schoolwork on their cellphones; 40% report the same likelihood of their child having to use public Wi-Fi to finish schoolwork because there is not a reliable internet connection at home, and about one-third (36%) say it is likely their children will not be able to complete schoolwork because they do not have access to a computer at home.
-Hispanic Americans are particularly likely to express concerns about paying their tech-related bills. Overall, 54% of Hispanic broadband users say they worry about being able to pay for their home internet services, compared with 36% of black users and 21% of white users. Similar patterns are present when asked about worries related to paying their cellphone bill, with larger shares of Hispanic smartphone owners being more likely than their black or white counterparts to say they worry about paying for this over the next few months.
These are among the findings from the report, which is based on a survey of 4,917 U.S. adults conducted online April 7 to 12, 2020. The margin of error for the full sample is plus or minus 2.1 percentage points.
Alongside the report, we’ve also published an analysis with new data on the various online actions Americans say they’re doing as a result of the coronavirus outbreak, such as hosting a virtual party, ordering food through an online app, watching a livestreamed concert, or participating in an online fitness class: https://www.pewresearch.org/