Fairly large majorities of search engine users express confidence in these tools and the results they generate. Not only does a majority believe that search engines are fair and unbiased, they also believe that most results are accurate and trustworthy. And most say that the quality and relevance of search results has been improving over time or has not changed, while very few see the quality and relevance of results declining.
Bias and accuracy
There continues to be widespread faith in search results, and perceptions of fairness and bias have not changed at all over the past eight years. Roughly two-thirds of searchers (66%) say search engines are a fair and unbiased source of information. In 2004, 68% of search users said that search engines were a fair and unbiased source of information.
Asked how much of the information they get in search results is accurate or trustworthy, 28% say all or almost all and another 45% say most.
Younger search engine users have more faith in the results they get. 72% of 18-29 year-olds say that search engines are a fair and unbiased source, compared with 65% of 30-49 year-olds, 67% of 50-64 year-olds, and just 54% of search users age 65 and older.
Where accuracy and trustworthiness are concerned, women are slightly more likely than men (76% v. 69%) to feel that all or most of the results they get are accurate and trustworthy. Search users living in the highest income households are also slightly more likely than others to believe that all or most of their results can be trusted.
Relevance and quality over time
Half of adult search users (52%) say search results have gotten more relevant and useful over time, while just 7% see them as getting less relevant or useful. The remaining 40% see no change over time. A similar question about changes in the quality of information over time yields similar results. Just over half of adult search users (55%) say that in their experience the quality of search results has gotten better over time, while 4% say the quality has gotten worse.
Adult search users under age 50 are slightly more likely than older search users to feel the quality of search results is improving over time. Older adult search users, in contrast, are more likely to see no difference in quality. There are no notable demographic differences where perceptions of relevance are concerned.