What the world population is doing on smartphones and social networks

In the past year, American cell phone owners became more likely to use the Internet on their phones (51 percent, up from 43 percent in 2011) and capture pictures or videos (67 percent, up from 57 percent).

That's one insight from the 2012 edition of the annual Pew Research Center's Global Attitudes Project survey, which studied how people in 21 countries are using mobile and social media.

86 percent of U.S. adults now own some kind of cell phone, according to the survey. About half of those people use one to access the Internet.

Majorities of U.S. smartphone users are regularly looking up consumer information (64 percent), accessing social networks (60 percent), getting political news (54 percent) and getting work-related information (54 percent).

The rest of the world's smartphone users are less likely to use them for consumer information, political news and work information (43 to 46 percent do so), but slightly more likely to use them for social media (64 percent).

Social media activities

In the U.S., the survey found, social network users share views about music and movies (63 percent), sports (49 percent), community issues (47 percent) and politics (37 percent) and religion (32 percent).

(An aside on this data point: The survey questions named different examples of social networks in each country. In the U.S., respondents were asked if they used social networks "like Facebook and MySpace," omitting Twitter and other popular networks like, Tumblr, Instagram, Reddit or Pinterest.)

Those U.S. figures each are fairly close to the international medians, except for the topic of religion, where the U.S. rate of sharing is more than double the world average of 14 percent.

Another notable trend detected in the survey is social media's role in Arab Spring nations. From the report:

Expressing opinions about politics, community issues and religion is particularly common in the Arab world. For instance, in Egypt and Tunisia, two nations at the heart of the Arab Spring, more than six-in-ten social networkers share their views about politics online. In contrast, across 20 of the nations surveyed, a median of only 34% post their political opinions.

The survey consisted of 26,210 interviews across 21 nations. In the U.S. there were 1,011 interviews, leading to a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points for that population.

  • Profile picture for user jsonderman

    Jeff Sonderman

    Jeff Sonderman is the deputy director of the American Press Institute, helping to lead its use of research, tools, events, and strategic insights to advance and sustain journalism.


Related News

Email IconGroup 3Facebook IconLinkedIn IconsearchGroupTwitter IconGroup 2YouTube Icon