Research Behind the Numbers: Sept.11

A report by the Pew Research Center concluded that the Internet was not a primary resource for news or outreach for most Americans immediately after the terror attacks, but it was a helpful supplement through the use of email and instant messaging, and as a news source. Americans, including Internet users, relied mostly on TV for their news, but the phone primarily for their immediate communication needs. [A follow-up Harris poll found that two weeks after the attacks, the number of wired Americans logging onto news sites had more than doubled.]

Though 81 percent of all Americans say they got most of their information from TV, and only 3 percent of Internet users say they got most of their information from the Internet, Jupiter MMXI reports that 11.7 million Americans visited news sites each day for a week after the attacks, double the previous average. topped the list with 4.6 million visitors a day. In the first two days, 82 percent of Internet users used the phone or email to make contact with people they care about. Fifteen percent sent email about the crisis to family members, and 12 percent sent email to friends.

The Pew Report found that compared to an average day, a far greater number of Internet users than normal tried to go to online news sites. Thirty-six percent of Internet users went online looking for news in the first two days after the attacks, one-third greater than the normal news-seeking population on a typical day online.

Thirty-five percent of the Internet users who tried to place calls on the day of the attacks had trouble getting through to people they tried to contact, and a fifth of them turned to the Internet to make contact with loved ones and friends. That’s between 4-5 million people who turned to the Internet because the phones weren’t working well enough for them.

About 30 million American adult Internet users tried to get news of the crisis online on the day of the attacks. About 43 percent of them said they had problems getting to the sites they wanted to access. Of those who had trouble, 41 percent kept trying until successful, 38 percent went to other sites, 19 percent gave up their search. Fifty-eight percent of those seeking news online were going to multiple websites in their hunt for information.

In the two days after the crisis, 13 percent of Internet users participated in virtual communities or meetings in chat rooms, online bulletin boards, or email list servers. Online communities were an emotional, spiritual, cerebral, primal, and sorrowful place for Americans to sort out their feelings and hash out their views.

The final assessment of the Pew Report is that 30 percent of Internet users say the Internet helped them learn about what was going on in the first days after the attacks occurred, and 29 percent say the Internet helped them connect with people they needed to reach.

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