Pew survey: 42% of adult Americans use Wikipedia

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Pew Research Center’s Interet & American Life Project has conducted an interesting telephone-based survey about Internet and Wikipedia use in spring 2010. The report with the results was published around the 10 year anniversary of Wikipedia in January 2011. They have a previous report from 2007. They report that 42% of adult Americans used Wikipedia in May 2010, up from 25% in 2007. If we linearly extrapolate then 110% of adult Americans will be using Wikipedia in 13 years.

If you are a young white man with a high education level, have a broadband connection and a good income but not the highest it is likely that you use Wikipedia. On the other hand if you are an old Hispanic woman with no high school education and a low income sitting with a dial-up connection then you are less likely to use Wikipedia.

One thing that surprised me was how little difference there was between male and female users of Wikipedia. Among Internet users 56% of males use Wikipedia while the corresponding figure for females is 50%. These percentages are for readers. I suppose the males are more active as writers – from my personal experience. It is also what the Wikipedia Survey finds (page 7): Only 13% of contributors to Wikipedia (that took the survey) are female.

There are a few things I don’t understand. They report the Wikipedia use among Internet users to be 79%. In the methodology section they report a sample size on 2’252 and 1’756 Internet users. If you divide the two numbers you get 1756/2252 = 0.77975 which is nearer to 78% than 79%. Another strange issue is that there are 1756 Internet users (according to the methodology) while for the characterization of the demographics of Wikipedia users there are only 852 Internet users. They report they called 33’594 phone numbers and got a “response rate” around 20%. 20%
of 33’594 gives around 6’700 which is not 2’252. So where is the rest lost? Perhaps somewhere around the “completion rate”, “eligibility rate” and “cooperation rate”? Could the 78/79% issue be related to telephone interview debias weighting…?

The data is available on their homepage.


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