The Not-So-United States of Technology

    New York , N.Y. – August 22, 2013 – Fear of technology’s impact on our lives is nothing new. Just as many fear social media and email are negatively impacting how we communicate with one another today, many new developments throughout history have been met with fear of the changes they would bring. The philosopher Plato famously objected to the very notion of written words, for fear that committing thoughts and events to paper would erode our ability to retain such things through memory alone. Swiss biologist Conrad Gessner decried the printing press, cautioning that it would leave in its wake a confusing and harmful abundance of books which would provide people with, put simply, too much information. And yet, the relentless march of technology, and information available, continues to march on – relentlessly, some might say.

    Even today, Americans are 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 (65%). But, at the same time, strong majorities also believe technology is creating a lazy society (76%), has become too distracting (69%) and is corrupting interpersonal communications (68%).

    These are some of the results of The Harris Poll of 2,210 U.S. adults surveyed online between June 12 and 17, 2013 by Harris Interactive.

    Warm fuzzies for technology show year-over-year declines

    Americans’ collective assessment of technology’s impact on everyday life appears to have suffered a bit over the past year. In comparison to June of 2012, Americans have become more likely to indicate that technology has become too distracting (from 65% in 2012 to 69% in 2013) and less likely to agree that it has improved the overall quality of their lives (78%-71%), that they use technology as an escape from their busy lives (53%-47%) and that it enhances their social lives (56%-52%).

    There also appears to be year-over-year erosion in how Americans feel technology is affecting several aspects of their lives. Though Americans are consistently more likely to report a positive impact than a negative one for all aspects tested, many of these perceived positive effects have declined in comparison to 2012:

    • My work productivity (down from 42% in 2012 to 34% in 2013)
    • My work life (41%-34%)
    • My safety and security (42%-36%)
    • My productivity at home (39%-34%)
    • Relationships with my family (43%-39%)

    Additionally, the perception that technology has a negative effect on safety and security has grown by a third in the same period, from 15% in 2012 to 20% in 2013.

    Despite all these concerns about technology, clearly 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 indicated that they could make it a week or less without Internet access (68%), a computer/laptop (64%), television (57%) or a mobile phone (56%), with roughly one-fourth going so far as to state outright that they simply could not live without them (28%, 24%, 23% and 26%, respectively). Just to add a dash of perspective, fewer than half (43%) said they could only make it a week or less (or not at all) without sex, with two in ten (20%) saying they could not live without it – period.

    Tech savvy doesn’t necessarily translate to tech love

    These divergent perspectives on technology are not limited to U.S. adults at large; a comparison of Americans by generation reveals an equally complex picture. A recent Harris Poll confirmed what we likely all know – that younger generations are more likely to own such high tech goodies. However, this should not be taken to mean that these younger Americans are more affectionate towards technology. In fact, Echo Boomers are consistently more likely than their older counterparts to indicate that technology has a negative impact on every tested aspect of their lives. Some examples of this include:

    • My productivity at home (33% Echo Boomers, 21% Gen Xers, 18% Baby Boomers, 13% Matures).
    • My safety and security (25%, 19%, 17%, and 14%, respectively).
    • Relationships with my family (18%, 10%, 7%, and 5%, respectively).
    • My work productivity (17%, 9%, 3% and 4%, respectively)
    • My happiness (15%, 6%, 5% and 4%, respectively).

    And yet even with a higher likelihood to see negative effects of technology on their lives, younger Americans nonetheless prove to be less willing to part with their goodies, with Echo Boomers and Gen Xers (33% and 30%, respectively) more likely than Baby Boomers (22%) or Matures (16%) to indicate that they could not live without a mobile phone.

    Mind the (gender) gap

    Men and women both appear conflicted on how technology impacts their lives, with each group standing out in their ability to see different positive and negative aspects of this relationship.

    • Men are more likely than women to agree that technology has improved the overall quality of their lives (76% men, 68% women) and that it encourages people to be more creative (69% men, 61% women). Men are also more likely to believe technology has a positive impact on several functional aspects of their lives, such as their safety and security (40% men, 33% women), their work productivity (38% men, 31%, women) and their productivity at home (38% men, 30% women). However, men are more likely to see technology as having a negative effect on their lives in more emotional areas such as their happiness (11% men, 6% women) and their social life (10% men, 6% women).
    • Women also show some conflicting emotions toward tech. On the one hand, they are more likely than men to believe it has a positive effect on their relationships with friends (51% women, 44% men) and their happiness (44% women, 37% men); on the other hand, they’re more likely to believe it has a negative effect on their productivity at home (25% women, 20% men). Women are also more likely than men to agree that technology has become too distracting (73% women, 64% men).

    Additionally, women are more likely than men (25% and 20%, respectively) to indicate that they could not live without television – and the men may want to hand the remote over promptly when asked, as women are twice as likely as them to indicate that they could live without sex (27% women, 13% men)!

    To see other recent Harris Polls, please visit the Harris Poll News Room.

    TABLE 1a

    OVERALL IMPACT OF TECHNOLOGY ON EVERYDAY LIFE

    Grid Summary

    Please indicate how much you agree or disagree with the following statements.

    Base: U.S. adults

     

    Agree (NET)

    Strongly agree

    Somewhat agree

    Disagree (NET)

    Somewhat disagree

    Strongly disagree

    Not at all sure

    Not applicable

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    Technology is creating a lazy society

    76

    39

    37

    19

    11

    8

    4

    2

    Technology has improved the overall quality of my life

    71

    28

    43

    23

    14

    9

    4

    2

    Technology has become too distracting

    69

    30

    39

    26

    14

    12

    3

    2

    Technology is corrupting interpersonal communications

    68

    31

    37

    25

    15

    10

    5

    2

    Technology encourages people to be more creative

    65

    24

    41

    27

    18

    9

    6

    2

    Technology enhances my social life

    52

    17

    34

    40

    21

    19

    4

    4

    I use technology as an escape from my busy life

    47

    16

    32

    46

    22

    24

    3

    4

    My friends/family think I use technology too frequently

    25

    10

    15

    63

    26

    37

    6

    5

    My employer expects me to always be on call or online because technology makes it possible

    25

    10

    15

    31

    12

    19

    3

    41

    1 My employer expects me to always be on call or online because technology makes it possible [1among applicable respondents]

    43

    17

    26

    5

    20

    332

    4

    Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding

    — indicates 0% response

    Caution – small base (n<100). Results should be interpreted as qualitative, or directional, in nature.


    TABLE 1b

    OVERALL IMPACT OF TECHNOLOGY ON EVERYDAY LIFE

    Summary of Agree (NET) – By Generation & Gender

    Please indicate how much you agree or disagree with the following statements.

    Base: U.S. adults

     

    2013 Total

    2012 Total

    Generation

    Gender

    Echo Boomers

    (18-35)

    Gen X (36-47)

    Baby Boomers (48-66)

    Matures (67+)

    Male

    Female

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    Technology is creating a lazy society

    76

    75

    73

    79

    78

    70

    72

    79

    Technology has improved the overall quality of my life

    71

    78

    71

    69

    74

    70

    76

    68

    Technology has become too distracting

    69

    65

    68

    69

    72

    65

    64

    73

    Technology is corrupting interpersonal communications

    68

    n/a

    63

    69

    70

    71

    66

    70

    Technology encourages people to be more creative

    65

    n/a

    66

    63

    65

    63

    69

    61

    Technology enhances my social life

    52

    56

    63

    57

    45

    36

    50

    53

    I use technology as an escape from my busy life

    47

    53

    59

    52

    42

    27

    48

    46

    My friends/family think I use technology too frequently

    25

    30

    36

    29

    18

    14

    29

    22

    My employer expects me to always be on call or online because technology makes it possible

    25

    n/a

    41

    24

    19

    7

    30

    21

    n/a – indicates the statement was not tested in 2012


    TABLE 2a

    POSITIVE/NEGATIVE EFFECTS OF TECHNOLOGY ON MY LIFE

    Grid Summary

    How do you think technology is affecting the following aspects of your life?

    Base: U.S. adults

    39

    , td width=67>

     

    Positive effect (NET)

    Very positive effect

    Somewhat positive effect

    No effect at all

    Negative effect (NET)

    Somewhat negative effect

    Very negative effect

    Not applicable

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    Relationships with friends

    47

    13

    35

    41

    8

    6

    2

    4

    My ability to live life the way I want to

    42

    13

    29

    47

    8

    6

    2

    3

    My happiness

    41

    12

    30

    48

    8

    6

    2

    3

    My social life

    41

    11

    30

    46

    8

    6

    2

    5

    Relationships with my family

    39

    12

    27

    46

    11

    9

    2

    4

    My safety and security

    36

    11

    25

    40

    20

    14

    5

    4

    My work productivity

    34

    16

    18

    29

    9

    7

    2

    28

    My work life

    34

    14

    19

    29

    7

    5

    2

    30

    My productivity at home

    34

    13

    21

    23

    20

    3

    4

    Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding

     

    TABLE 2b

    POSITIVE/NEGATIVE EFFECTS OF TECHNOLOGY ON MY LIFE

    Summary of Positive Effect (NET) – By Generation & Gender

    How do you think technology is affecting the following aspects of your life?

    Base: U.S. adults

     

    2013 Total

    2012 Total

    Generation

    Gender

    Echo Boomers

    (18-35)

    Gen X (36-47)

    Baby Boomers (48-66)

    Matures (67+)

    Male

    Female

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    Relationships with friends

    47

    50

    53

    50

    44

    41

    44

    51

    My ability to live life the way I want to

    42

    n/a

    42

    48

    39

    40

    44

    40

    My happiness

    41

    n/a

    44

    39

    41

    39

    43

    40

    My social life

    41

    43

    53

    42

    34

    27

    37

    44

    Relationships with my family

    39

    43

    41

    44

    35

    41

    38

    41

    My safety and security

    36

    42

    37

    38

    32

    44

    40

    33

    My work productivity

    34

    42

    43

    36

    34

    13

    38

    31

    My work life

    34

    41

    41

    40

    32

    13

    36

    32

    My productivity at home

    34

    39

    33

    36

    34

    30

    38

    30

    n/a – indicates the statement was not tested in 2012


    TABLE 2c

    POSITIVE/NEGATIVE EFFECTS OF TECHNOLOGY ON MY LIFE

    Summary of Negative Effect (NET) – By Generation & Gender

    How do you think technology is affecting the following aspects of your life?

    Base: U.S. adults

     

    2013 Total

    2012 Total

    Generation

    Gender

    Echo Boomers

    (18-35)

    Gen X (36-47)

    Baby Boomers (48-66)

    Matures (67+) < span>

    Male

    Female

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    My productivity at home

    23

    23

    33

    21

    18

    13

    20

    25

    My safety and security

    20

    15

    25

    19

    17

    14

    18

    21

    Relationships with my family

    11

    10

    18

    10

    7

    5

    12

    10

    My work productivity

    9

    10

    17

    9

    3

    4

    9

    9

    Relationships with friends

    8

    7

    14

    5

    6

    6

    9

    8

    My happiness

    8

    n/a

    15

    6

    5

    4

    11

    6

    My ability to live life the way I want to

    8

    n/a

    14

    6

    5

    6

    10

    7

    My social life

    8

    8

    13

    7

    5

    4

    10

    6

    My work life

    7

    7

    12

    7

    4

    3

    8

    6

    n/a – indicates the statement was not tested in 2012

     

    TABLE 3a

    HOW LONG COULD LIVE WITHOUT SPECIFIC THINGS

    Grid Summary

    How long could you live without each of the following?

    Base: U.S. adults

     

    I could live without it

    I could live without it for a few weeks

    I could live without it for a week

    I could live without it for a few days

    I could not live without it

    I could live without it for a week or less [NET]

    Not applicable

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    Social networking sites

    55

    13

    9

    9

    7

    25

    6

    Navigation system

    54

    10

    5

    7

    8

    20

    16

    eReader

    52

    7

    5

    5

    5

    15

    27

    Tablet computer

    46

    6

    6

    9

    6

    21

    27

    Mobile phone

    28

    12

    11

    19

    26

    56

    3

    Television

    26

    15

    13

    21

    23

    57

    1

    Sex

    25

    22

    10

    12

    20

    43

    10

    Computer/Laptop

    20

    15

    15

    25

    24

    64

    2

    Internet access

    17

    13

    14

    26

    28

    68

    1

    Spouse/significant other

    16

    7

    6

    9

    45

    60

    17

    Car

    15

    7

    9

    23

    42

    78

    5

    Food

    5

    3

    4

    15

    73

    92

    1

    Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding


    TABLE 3b

    HOW LONG COULD LIVE WITHOUT SPECIFIC THINGS

    Summary of I could live without it – By Generation & Gender

    How long could you live without each of the following?

    Base: U.S. adults

     

    2013 Total

    2012 Total

    Generation

    Gender

    Echo Boomers

    (18-36)

    Gen X (37-48)

    Baby Boomers (49-67)

    Matures (68+)

    Male

    Female

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    Social networking sites

    55

    57

    48

    53

    61

    63

    59

    52

    Navigation system

    54

    55

    51

    57

    53

    57

    58

    50

    eReader

    52

    54

    53

    55

    50

    48

    56

    48

    Tablet computer

    46

    49

    48

    46

    44

    45

    50

    42

    Mobile phone

    28

    29

    20

    27

    32

    41

    32

    25

    Television

    26

    28

    35

    28

    19

    19

    28

    24

    Sex

    25

    26

    20

    22

    28

    34

    19

    30

    Computer/Laptop

    20

    21

    24

    18

    15

    21

    21

    18

    Internet access

    17

    19

    17

    17

    15

    22

    20

    14

    Spouse/significant other

    16

    18

    16

    14

    15

    18

    18

    14

    Car

    15

    13

    22

    15

    9

    9

    18

    12

    Food

    5

    5

    8

    2

    3

    3

    6

    4

     

    TABLE 3c

    HOW LONG COULD LIVE WITHOUT SPECIFIC THINGS

    Summary of I could NOT live without it – By Generation & Gender

    How long could you live without each of the following?

    Base: U.S. adults

     

    2013 Total

    2012 Total

    Generation

    Gender

    Echo Boomers

    (18-36)

    Gen X (37-48)

    Baby Boomers (49-67)

    Matures (68+)

    Male

    Female

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    Food

    73

    68

    67

    77

    73

    77

    67

    77

    Spouse/significant other

    45

    41

    40

    46

    49

    45

    44

    45

    Car

    42

    40

    34

    40

    47

    50

    39

    45

    Internet access

    28

    26

    28

    30

    26

    29

    26

    29

    Mobile phone

    26

    23

    33

    30

    22

    16

    26

    27

    Computer/Laptop

    24

    24

    22

    24

    25

    27

    23

    25

    Television

    23

    20

    17

    26

    25

    27

    20

    25

    Sex

    20

    19

    22

    25

    19

    10

    27

    13

    Navigation system

    8

    7

    11

    9

    5

    6

    7

    9

    Social networking sites

    7

    6

    8

    8

    6

    4

    8

    6

    Tablet computer

    6

    5

    10

    6

    5

    2

    7

    6

    eReader

    5

    4

    7

    4

    5

    4

    5

    5

     

    Methodology

    This Harris Poll was conducted online within the United States between June 12 and 17, 2013 among 2,210 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, Harris Interactive 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 Interactive 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 the Harris Interactive 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.

    The results of this Harris Poll may not be used in advertising, marketing or promotion without the prior written permission of Harris Interactive.

    Product and brand names are trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective owners.

    The Harris Poll‘c2’ae #54, August 22, 2013

    By Larry Shannon-Missal, Harris Poll Research Manager

     

    About Harris Interactive

    Harris Interactive is one of the world’s leading market research firms, leveraging research, technology, and business acumen to transform relevant insight into actionable foresight. Known widely for the Harris Poll’c2’ae and for pioneering innovative research methodologies, Harris offers proprietary solutions in the areas of market and customer insight, corporate brand and reputation strategy, and marketing, advertising, public relations and communications research. Harris possesses expertise in a wide range of industries including health care, technology, public affairs, energy, telecommunications, financial services, insurance, media, retail, restaurant, and consumer package goods. Additionally, Harris has a portfolio of multi-client offerings that complement our custom solutions while maximizing our client’s research investment. Serving clients in more than 196 countries and territories through our North American and European offices, Harris specializes in delivering research solutions that help us – and our clients – stay ahead of what’s next. For more information, please visit www.harrisinteractive.com.