NEW YORK, Nov. 4, 2015 /PRNewswire/ -- As technology continues to seep into seemingly every aspect of everyday life – and with familiarity so often breeding contempt – it should come as no surprise that it rubs some Americans the wrong way. Many adults remain divided on how technology impacts the way we live our lives. On the one hand, strong majorities believe that technology has improved the overall quality of their lives (71%) and encourages people to be more creative (68%). But at the same time, strong majorities also believe technology is creating a lazy society (73%), has become too distracting (73%), is corrupting interpersonal communications (69%), and is having a negative impact on literacy (59%).
These are some of the results of The Harris Poll® of 2,220 adults surveyed online between June 17 and 22, 2015. Full results of this study, including data tables, can be found here.
On an encouraging note, a majority of Americans say technology has had a positive effect on their ability to learn new skills (63%). Over four in ten also say technology has a positive effect on:
- Their relationships with friends (46%),
- Their ability to live life the way they want (45%),
- Their happiness (43%), and
- Their social life (42%).
A plurality says the same of its effect on their work productivity (36%) and their work life (35%).
While a plurality (36%) believes technology has a positive effect on their productivity at home, it's worth noting that nearly one quarter (23%) disagree with this sentiment.
It's well known that different generations hold differing opinions when looking at any aspect of technology – be it usage, adoption, or general attitudes. Knowing that Millennials are traditionally the most attuned to their tech devices, it comes as no surprise that this group is more likely to say technology has had a positive effect on nearly all aspects tested, including:
- Ability to learn new skills (72% vs. 59% Gen Xers, 60% Baby Boomers & 56% Matures),
- Relationships with friends (59% vs. 46%, 36% & 34%),
- Ability to life the way they want to (53% vs. 43%, 39% & 40%),
- Happiness (52% vs. 42%, 37% & 38%),
- Social life (57% & 42%, 30% & 29%), and
- Relationships with family (46% vs. 36%, 33% & 27%).
However, there is a key exception – their productivity. Millennials are more likely than all other generations to say technology has had a negative effect on their productivity both at home (32% vs. 21% Gen Xers, 20% Baby Boomers & 14% Matures) and at work (14% vs. 8%, 3% & 2%).
While Millennials may be the most likely group to say technology positively affects their relationships and the most likely to say it enhances their social life (67% vs. 53% Gen Xers, 36% Baby Boomers & 40% Matures), their family and friends might feel differently. Millennials also happen to be more likely than any other generation to say their friends/family think they use technology too much (46% vs. 27% Gen Xers, 13% Baby Boomers & 11% Matures).
Men and women offer some differing opinions on how technology affects their lives as well.
- Women are more likely than men to hold the negative opinions that technology has become too distracting (76% vs. 70% of men) and that it gets upgraded/updated too quickly (67% vs. 57%).
- They're also more likely to believe it has a negative effect on their productivity at home (30% vs. 17%) and safety and security (18% vs. 13%).
- However, women don't find it all bad. They're also more likely than men to say they use it as an escape from their busy lives (50% vs. 43%).
Meanwhile, men are more likely than women to see the positive aspects.
A majority of men are more likely to believe technology has a positive impact on several functional aspects of their lives.
- This includes their ability to learn new skills (67% vs. 60% of women) and to live life the way they want (50% vs. 40%).
- Men are also more likely to believe technology positively impacts their safety and security (45% vs. 34% of women), their productivity at home (44% vs. 28%), their work productivity (43% vs. 29%), and their work life (42% vs. 29%).
How willing are Americans to unplug?
Despite many concerns, it's clear Americans still have a hard time unplugging. When faced with a list of technological devices and general life staples and asked how long they could live without each, majorities of Americans indicate that they could make it a week or less without Internet access (67%), a computer/laptop (60%), mobile phone (59%), or television (55%), with over two in ten going so far as to state that they simply could not live without them (27%, 22%, 26% and 21%, respectively).
Just to add a dash of perspective, about four in ten said they could only make it a week or less (or not at all) without caffeine (42%) or sex (39%), with roughly two in ten saying they could not live without them – period (20% and 18%, respectively).
So what can Americans live without? Just over one quarter (26%) say they could live without sex altogether, while just 23% say the same of their computers and 18% say the same about Internet access. In other words, more Americans say they can live without sex than say they can live without the Internet or their computer!
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This Harris Poll was conducted online, in English, within the United States between June 17 and 22, 2015 among 2,220 adults (aged 18 and over). Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents' propensity to be online.
All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to multiple sources of error which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments. Therefore, The Harris Poll avoids the words "margin of error" as they are misleading. All that can be calculated are different possible sampling errors with different probabilities for pure, unweighted, random samples with 100% response rates. These are only theoretical because no published polls come close to this ideal.
Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Harris Poll surveys. The data have been weighted to reflect the composition of the adult population. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in our panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.
These statements conform to the principles of disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.
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The Harris Poll® #68, November 4, 2015
By Allyssa Birth, Senior Research Analyst, The Harris Poll
About The Harris Poll®
Begun in 1963, The Harris Poll is one of the longest running surveys measuring public opinion in the U.S. and is highly regarded throughout the world. The nationally representative polls, conducted primarily online, measure the knowledge, opinions, behaviors and motivations of the general public. New and trended polls on a wide variety of subjects including politics, the economy, healthcare, foreign affairs, science and technology, sports and entertainment, and lifestyles are published weekly. For more information, or to see other recent polls, please visit our new website, TheHarrisPoll.com.
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