Can Americans Keep Up With Buying the New, New Technology?

The rich place a great premium on owning fancy, cutting-edge technologies, while poorer residents say that’s less important.

Francois Lenoir / Reuters

The modern digital revolution, begun in the 1980s, now dominates Americans’ lives—down to the ways they communicate, work, learn, and shop.

A startling 69 percent of Americans said that having the latest technology is “total[ly] necessary” to their lives, according to the results of the most recent Heartland Monitor Poll. Just 12 percent of those surveyed called new technology “not at all necessary.”

High-earners, college grads, African Americans, and Hispanics are among the groups of people who consider technology the most necessary to their day-to-day routines. Interestingly, the poll shows that the importance of technology in Americans’ lives depends on their socioeconomic status. Seventy-six percent of upper-income and middle-class respondents called technology crucial, while just 55 percent of lower-income people considered it so.

The polling confirms what most type-A Americans already know: We’re glued to our phones, tablets, and laptops in more and more ways. Sixty-six percent of those surveyed say they use the Internet multiple times a day. Only 13 percent of the people surveyed said they check the Internet just once a day; 9 percent said never.

The changes from the recent past are dramatic. Respondents log onto the Internet more often using their mobile phones (44 percent) than their home or personal computers (30 percent). They use the Internet most often to keep up with national or community news and to use social-media accounts such as Facebook or Instagram. To a lesser extent, respondents use the Internet to buy products and services for their homes or to download music, movies, books, or games.

In explaining their use of social media, respondents said they mainly stay in touch with or follow the doings of family members. They don’t bother nearly as much with community or nonprofit groups, co-workers, companies and brands, or political groups and candidates.

People may love the latest gadgetry, but it doesn’t always mean they can afford it. Two-thirds of respondents deemed it realistic that they could own the newest and greatest technology, but a third of them didn’t. Those who earn less than $30,000 a year were significantly less likely to say they had the dough to buy the new, new thing.