Americans Weigh In Online: Rating Is A Popular Pastime

Everyone’s got an opinion. According to new reports from the Pew Internet & American Life project and Lyra Research, people like to share those opinions online.

According to Pew, thirty-three million Americans have used an online rating system to rate a product, service or person. A nationwide phone survey of 1,399 US Internet users found 26 percent of adult users have used an online rating system.

From a demographic perspective, 29 percent of men and 22 percent of women users said they’d used an online rating system. Ages of rating systems users skew towards the younger generation: 30 percent of those 18 to 27 year olds participating, and 28 percent in the 28 to 39 age group. Boomers (aged 40 to 58) had only a 23 percent usage rate. More educated surfers (29 percent of those with some college) had higher levels of participation than those with less than a high school education (17 percent). Broadband users (32 percent) also participate more than dial-up users (24 percent).

The study found the longer a user has been online, the more likely they’ll have rated something. Only 12 percent of those who have accessed the Web for one year or less have rated something. In start contrast, 32 percent of users who have been online over 6 years said they’d rated something online.

Frequency of online usage also plays a role in rating system participation. Of users who go online “several times a week,” 19 percent indicated they rated something. The number rises to 31 percent for users who go online daily. Only 8 percent of users who are online fewer than several times a week have participated in the activity.

Users skeptical of information found on the Web are more likely to have rated something online. Users who believe search engines are unfair or biased also show a higher propensity (39 percent) to rate something. In comparison, only 28 percent of those who believe search engines to be fair bothered to rate online.

Use of Online Rating Systems
The percentage of internet users in
each category who say they have
rated a product, service, or
person online.
Men 29%
Women 22%
Generation Y (Ages 18-27) 30%
Generation X (Ages 28-39) 28%
Trailing Boomers (Ages 40-49) 23%
Leading Boomers (Ages 50-58) 23%
Matures (Ages 59-68) 20%
After work (Ages 69 and above) 11%
Household Income
Less than $30,000/yr 22%
$30,000 – $50,000/yr 24%
$50,000 – $75,000/yr 27%
More than $75,000/yr 33%
Education Attainment
Less than High School 17%
High School 20%
Some College 29%
College + 30%
Internet Access at Home
Dial-up Connection 24%
Broadband Connection 32%
Note: N= 2,200 adults 18 and older in full sample
and 1,399 internet users. Interviewing dates:
05/14/04 – 06/17/04. Margin of error is ± 3
percentage points at 95% confidence level.
Source: Pew Internet & American Life Project May-June
tracking survey.

Pew isn’t the only research group showing Americans are flocking online to share opinions. A recent Lyra Research survey also finds Americans flock to the Internet to respond to TV polls. Over half (55 percent) of respondents used their PCs to respond to a question or poll posed on TV, compared to only 24 percent who indicate they used their landline or cell phone.

“One of the reasons why people are participating in these systems is to cast their vote to say these things seem credible or not,” explained Pew’s director, Lee Rainie. “In the pre-Internet days, you’d sit there in front of the TV or with your newspaper and you could just scream into outer space without much impact. Maybe you could write a letter to the editor. Nowadays, you get a vote, you can say these things worked out and these other things didn’t. It goes part and parcel with people saying, ‘I have a responsibility to contribute my thoughts as well as watch what others say about things.'”

“By and large, I thing it’s good that people get their say and it’s good that we get to vote on more things than we used to.”

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