War Images Sought Out on Internet, But Viewers Uncomfortable

War Images Sought Out on Internet, But Viewers Uncomfortable

According to the Pew Internet & American Life Project telephone survey conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates, during some of the most turbulent weeks of the Iraq war nearly one quarter of Internet users went online to view some of most graphic war images that were deemed too gruesome or horrific for newspapers and television to display. Of those who have seen the images, 28% actively sought them out.

Overall, however, Americans are conflicted about the idea of these disturbing images being available online. By a 49%-40% margin, Americans disapprove of the posting of such images. Broken up into demographic categories, however, opinion varies widely.

A strong cultural divide emerges between Internet users and non-users: Internet users approve of the images being online by a small margin of 47% - 44%, while non-users disapprove by an overwhelming 58% - 29% margin.

The data show that millions of Internet users want to be able to view the graphic war images and they see the Internet as an alternative source of news and information from traditional media. But many who do venture outside the traditional and familiar standards of the mainstream news organizations to look at the images online end up feeling very uncomfortable. The Pew survey indicates, however, that less than 20% of respondents viewed war images unintentionally.

US Adults' Opinions of Online Display of Graphic War Images (% of respondents)

Under age 305241
Over age 303751
College or grad degree4743
High school or less3455
HH income over $50,0005240
HH income less than $50,0003555
Internet user4744
Non-internet user2958

Source: Pew Internet & American Life, July 2004

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