April 18, 2012

Pew Internet: Data Resources

Brand new to the Pew Internet site and wondering how to navigate through our expanse of available resources? This page should point you in the right direction.

If you’re looking for a spreadsheet with our data, or just want to know a single data point on a specific topic, these resources should help:

  • A great place to get a sense of what people are doing online is our Trend Data page, especially our frequently-updated “Who’s Online?” chart showing internet user demographics. 
  • Our list of online activities is also a good place to go to see how popular various online activities are in relation to each other. Most of these charts have accompanying spreadsheets available for download, and are updated several times a year.
  • Search all of our survey questions by keyword, topic, or date range in our Roper database. See below for more information about our survey questions and data sets.
  • Our “Usage over time” spreadsheet is a very large Excel file containing data points for all the online activities we have ever asked about, with user demographics, over time. Not for the faint-of-heart, the spreadsheet comes with its own “tip sheet” (pdf) to help make sense of its contents. Be on the lookout — a major update to this spreadsheet is coming soon.
  • Always check the methodology section of the individual report—several of our reports allow you to download the basic data used in the report in a spreadsheet. For example: the data behind our report examining how different generations use technology (available here).

Data files available for download

Most of the file types available on our Data Sets page are meant to be analyzed by researchers using statistical analysis software. Our data resources are available in a variety of formats:

  • Comma-delimited (.csv) format (for all reports going back to 2003): We hope that making our data available in this open-source format will make analysis easier for researchers who don’t own a copy of SPSS to analyze our data. (Important note: These files are meant to be used with statistical analysis programs, not spreadsheet applications such as Excel. If you are looking for spreadsheets with our data, please see the section “Other data resources on our site” below.)
  • Survey instrument/questionnaire: This document provides the question and response labels that you would need in order to use the corresponding raw data file. It also includes all interviewer prompts and programming filters, which should be helpful for researchers who would like to see how our questions are constructed or use our questions in their own surveys.
  • Cross tabulation files (“cross-tabs”) of questions with basic demographics break down our data by standard demographic categories such as sex, race, age, household income, educational attainment, parental status and geographic location (i.e. urban/rural/suburban).
  • Topline data files include trend data to previous surveys in which we have asked each question (where applicable). Toplines are a great resource if you just want to see the overall responses to each survey question—such as what percentage of adults own a cell phone, how many cell phone users text, etc.

More information about our data set offerings, including notes about how to cite our data and our general publishing schedule, are available on our main data page. You can browse all of our data sets since 2000, and filter surveys based on year or topic; if you want to see the data behind a specific report, there is usually a link on the main report overview page to the data set in question. (If you have any questions about a data set or when a certain one will be made available, please email data@pewinternet.org.)

We’ve always been committed to providing free and open data; our reports are available for free on our website, and our data sets are posted soon after. However, we are aware that there is still much work to be done. We’re always looking for ways to make our data more accessible, and we welcome your input. If you have questions, suggestions, or general comments about how you use our data, please let us know!

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