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Americans Turning To Web For Big Decisions

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As the Internet grows to become the default source of information for millions of Americans, 45% of Internet users, or 60 million Americans, say that the World Wide Web played a major role in major decision-making in the past two years, says Pew Internet and American Life Project.

Study authors John Horrigan and Lee Rainie called the increase in the Internet’s role various life aspects over 2002 findings “striking.”

Over a three-year period, Internet use grew by:

54% in the number of adults who said the Internet played a major role as they helped another person cope with a major illness. And the number of those who said the Internet played a major role as they coped themselves with a major illness increased 40%.

50% in the number who said the Internet played a major role as they pursued more training for their careers.

45% in the number who said the Internet played a major role as they made major investment or financial decisions.

43% in the number who said the Internet played a major role when they looked for a new place to live.

42% in the number who said the Internet played a major role as they decided about a school or a college for themselves or their children.

23% in the number who said the Internet played a major role when they bought a car.

14% in the number who said the Internet played a major role as they switched jobs.

For the vast majority (53 million people), the Internet most likely played a crucial role in five categories – buying a car, making a major financial decision, helping someone deal with a major health matter, choosing a college, or getting additional career training.

As usage has increased, especially in decision-making and research, the quality of found information has often come in question. But according to the study, just 5% said they encountered bad information during research sessions.

And what about information overload? Only 15% said they sometimes felt overwhelmed by the amount of information they had access to, 71% felt it was manageable, and 11% can’t find the totality of information they seek.

Horrigan and Rainie suggest that the steady increase in broadband usage is only one factor in the increase in decision-making behavior on the Web. Though home broadband use has jumped to 50% of American homes, the researchers think that better online content and more widely advertised websites have also driven people to Internet sources.

In addition, Horrigan and Rainie feel that there may also be a network effect as more people seek out other people to help with decisions and learn about websites through word of mouth.

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Americans Turning To Web For Big Decisions
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