pew-socnet-use-dec-2010.JPGAmericans are most likely to use online social networks, according to a new study from the Pew Global Attitudes Project. Among the 22 publics surveyed, Americans most often say they use websites like Facebook and MySpace: 46% use such sites, 36% use the internet, but do not access these sites, and 18% say they never go online.

The survey finds three countries close behind the US in social network usage. In Poland (43%), Britain (43%) and South Korea (40%), at least four in 10 adults say they use such sites. And at least a third engage in social networking in France (36%), Spain (34%), Russia (33%) and Brazil (33%).

Germany, Japan Have High Web Usage, Low SocNet Engagement

Germans and the Japanese stand out among highly connected publics for their comparatively low levels of participation in social networking. While 31% of Germans use these types of sites, 49% go online at least occasionally but choose not to use them. In Japan, 24% are engaged in social networking, while 44% have internet access but are not engaged.

Among the 22 countries polled, social networking is least prevalent in Indonesia (6%) and Pakistan (3%). In both nations, more than 90% of the population does not use the internet.

Youth Leading SocNet Users

pew-socnet-use-youth-dec-2010.JPGIn every nation surveyed, there is a notable age gap relating to social networking. Social networking is especially popular among people younger than age 30; in 12 of the countries polled, a majority of this age group uses these types of sites. There are only three countries, Britain, Poland and the US, in which most 30 to 49 year-olds are involved in social networking. And there is no country in which even one-quarter of those ages 50 and older are involved.

In 10 countries, a gap of at least 50 percentage points separates the percentage of 18-to-29-year-olds who use social networking sites and the percentage of those ages 50 and older who do so. This includes the US, where the gap is 54 percentage points (77% of 18-to-29-year-olds and 23% of those 50 and older).

The age gap is largest in Germany, where 86% of people younger than age 30 take part in social networking, compared with 36% of 30 to 49 year-olds and just 8% of those ages 50 and older (78 percentage point difference).

While it is true that the young are more likely to go online, these age gaps are not driven solely by internet usage. Even among internet users, young people are more likely to participate in social networking.

US Women More Likely than US Men to Use SocNets

There are relatively few gender gaps across the countries surveyed. For the most part, men and women tend to engage in social networking at roughly the same rates. The US is the only country in which women are significantly more likely than men to use social networking. While 52% of American women engage in social networking, just 41% of men do so. This gap is not driven by a difference in access; similar percentages of women (18%) and men (17%) say they do not access the internet.

Meanwhile, in Turkey, about one-third of men (34%) use social networking, compared with only 19% of women. Similarly, in Japan, 30% of men report that they are involved in social networking, while just 19% of women say the same.

Harris: US Youth Favor SocNets, Facebook

Results from the recent Harris Interactive “YouthPulse 2010” indicate that three-quarters of 8-to-24-year-olds use a social networking site and about two-thirds (68%) spend time on a social networking site daily. Facebook is the most popular social networking site in this demographic, with 86% of 18-to-24-year-olds using Facebook and 71% of 13-to-17-year-olds doing so. More than one-quarter of 8-to-12-year-olds (28%) use Facebook, as well.

About the Data: The Pew Research Center’s Global Attitudes Project conducted surveys of adults in 22 countries about their internet and technology use with a variety of methods from April 7 to May 8, 2010.

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