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American Internet use has risen from 69% in 2002 to 87% today

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November 5, 2013

Older Americans’ Internet Use Up vs. 2002, but Still Lags

by Frank Newport and Michael Moffett

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Americans’ self-reported Internet use has risen from 69% in 2002 to 87% today, but significant gaps in usage remain across age, education, and income groups. Over a third of seniors still do not use the Internet.

Internet Usage Infographic

Americans aged 65 and older saw the biggest change in Internet use among any age category over the last 11 years (up 32 percentage points), but even with those gains, a third of older Americans say they don’t personally use the Internet. In contrast, 30- to 49-year-olds report almost universal use of the Internet today, with slightly lower but still high levels of use among adults younger than 30 and 50 to 64.

Those making less than $20,000 a year have experienced growth almost as large as that among seniors, but again, a considerable percentage of low-income Americans still do not use the Internet. On the other hand, use of the Internet is essentially universal among those making $50,000 a year or more.

Finally, adults with no more than a high school education have increased their use of the Internet significantly over the past 11 years, but, at 77%, their rate of use remains the lowest of any educational category. More than nine in 10 Americans with at least some college education use the Internet, including nearly universal use among those who have postgraduate education.

Trend: Do you, personally, use the Internet at your home, place of work, or school? That could be through a computer, smartphone, tablet, or other device.


Clearly the Internet has taken its place as a fixture in Americans’ daily lives. Almost nine in 10 Americans (87%) say they personally use the Internet, a jump from 69% 11 years ago. Still, certain pockets of Americans remain disconnected from this increasingly central portal for news, business, and communication, including in particular older Americans and those with low levels of education and income.

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Americans Grade Math as the Most Valuable School Subject

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English comes in second, followed by science

by Jeffrey M. Jones

PRINCETON, NJ — Math is the clear winner when Americans are asked to say which school subject has been most valuable to them in their lives, followed by language arts — English, literature, or reading — and science. Math and English were also the top two subjects when Gallup first asked this question in 2002.

Trend: Thinking about all the subjects you studied in school, which one, if any, has been the most valuable to you in your life? [OPEN-ENDED]

The results, from Gallup’s Aug. 7-11 Work and Education poll, are generally similar to those from 11 years ago. The most notable difference is a sharp increase in the percentage mentioning science, from 4% to 12%. While still well behind math and English, science has now moved ahead of history into third place in the rank order of subjects.

The question does not specify which level of school — grade school, high school, college, or postgraduate study — respondents should use in assessing the value of subjects. Thus, respondents were free to look back over their entire educational history to select the subject they thought was most valuable to them.

However, responses do differ according to Americans’ own level of educational attainment, with math increasingly less likely to be mentioned by those with higher levels of education. Specifically, 43% of those with a high school education or less say math has been most valuable, compared with 19% among those with postgraduate education.

In contrast, the importance of English rises with higher levels of formal education, tying math as the most important among four-year college graduates and coming in first among postgraduates. It could be that those with higher education levels are more likely to use written communication as a part of their jobs.

Most Valuable Subject Studied in School, by Educational Attainment, August 2013

English also ranked ahead of math as postgraduates’ choice for most valuable subject in 2002.

Postgraduates are about as likely to mention science as math as the most valuable subject for them.

Women Divided in Views of Most Valuable Subject

Men overwhelmingly say math has been the most valuable subject in their lives, with English and science essentially tied for second. Women are as likely to mention English as math as the most valuable subject.

Most Valuable Subject Studied in School, by Gender, August 2013

Math is also the top subject across household income levels and among Republicans, Democrats, and independents. And while math is No. 1 among political conservatives and moderates, math and English are essentially tied among liberals.

Most Valuable Subject Studied in School, by Political Ideology, August 2013


Proponents of focusing on the “three R’s” in school — reading, writing, and arithmetic — would be happy to know that U.S. adults report math and English are the school subjects that have been most valuable in their lives. While there is public support for teaching students skills such as critical thinking and communication in addition to core subject material, the poll results show the importance of teaching math and English in schools.

Those who want to see an increased emphasis on STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) training for today’s students will also be encouraged to note that math and science are two of the top three subjects Americans mention, but cautioned by the high ranking of English.

Americans may have a bit of a love-hate relationship with English and math, particularly math. When Gallup asked Americans in 1989 to name their favorite school subjects, math led, with 26%, followed by history (18%) and English (13%). But in the same poll, math tied English as Americans’ least favorite subject.