The “Frequency Divide” on Web Surveys: Opinions, Behaviours and Demographics Differences among Internet Users
Paula Vicente, Elizabeth Reis
UNIDE-IUL, ISCTE-Lisbon University Institute, Lisbon, Portugal; UNIDE-IUL, ISCTE-Lisbon University Institute, Lisbon, Portugal

The concept of the “digital divide” has changed over time. In the beginning, it basically referred to the possibility/difficulty of having computers available that are connected to the internet. The demographic differences between those with web access and those without are already well documented: internet users tend to be younger, more educated, have higher income and are more likely to live in urban areas than non-users (e.g. Couper 2000). Regarding social life, opinions and attitudes internet users and non-users also tend to be different (e.g. Robinson et al. 2002). Later, the digital divide began to introduce the concern for the development of capacities and skills required to use the information and communications technologies. The concept of digital literacy related to the digital divide began to be developed and addressed questions about different abilities to use the internet and draw advantages from its usage (Robinson et al. 2003). In recent times, the concept of the digital divide has incorporated the usage quality, based on the differences between users of the internet (Camacho 2005), meaning that internet users use the internet in different ways and for different activities. Therefore, the concept of digital divide no longer has merely to deal with the problem of having access or not, but rather with the differences that appear among those who are already connected.

The frequency of using the internet is likely to affect the probability of noticing a call for participation in a web survey. If frequent and non-frequent users are different, the sample of a web survey is likely to be biased towards those who spend more time on the internet. This study examines differences between frequent and non-frequent users of the internet in terms of demographics and responses. Data refers to Portugal and comes from the Eurobarometer 72.1 (2009). Specifically, the study objectives are to (1) examine socio-demographic differences between frequent and non-frequent internet users, (2) assess whether frequency of internet use is associated with different opinions and behaviours and (3) whether the “frequency divide” still makes a difference when controlled by relevant demographic variables.

Keywords: Web surveys; Digital divide

Biography: Paula Vicente is Assistant Professor in the Quantitative Methods Department, ISCTE-Lisbon University Institute. Her research interests are focused on survey methodology, internet surveys, mobile surveys and use of paradata.