Pew poll: Social media usage correlated to GDP, age and education

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Social media and use of cell phones for purposes other than talking typically is the province of rich countries and the young, finds a 21-country poll conducted by the Pew Research Center.

The polls were conducted in spring 2011 over the telephone or face-to-face and have per-country margin of errors ranging from 2.5 to 4.5 percentage points at a 95 percent confidence level.

Although there is some variation among countries with similar per capita GDPs--the United Kingdom, notably exceeds the similar economics of France and Germany when it comes to the percentage of the population utilizing social networking--the overall trend shows that a low per capita GDP correlates to a smaller percentage of the populace utilizing social media.

Social networking usage globally also skews young, the polls find. For example, within the United States (margin of error is 4 percentage points), the Pew poll finds that 80 percent of Internet users aged 18-29 use social networking, while 62 percent of those aged 30-49 do and only 26 percent of those aged 50 and above do so.

Internet users with at least a college degree are also more likely to use social networking, Pew says, finding that within the United States a 16 percentage point gap in social networking usage according to education attainment. Forty five percent of American Internet users without a college degree use social media, while 61 percent of those with a degree do so, according to the poll.

When it comes to cellular device usage, an age- and education-rift also appears in the polling data. In nearly all countries polled, people aged 18-29 are more likely than those 50 or older to access the Internet on a mobile phone, Pew says.

Specifically within the United States, 73 percent of 18-29 year olds with a mobile device use it to connect to the Internet, while 49 percent of those aged 30-49 do, and only 21 percent of those aged 50 and above do so.

Similarly, 53 percent of American cell phone owners with a college degree go online with it, while only 39 percent without a college degree do so.

For more:
- download the Pew Research poll, "Global Digital Communication: Texting, Social Networking Popular Worldwide" (.pdf)

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