Telecom & Wireless

Americans Don't Turn Off Cellphones, Except in Church

Nearly everyone in America has a cell phone, and many people do not turn them off. One of the places cell phones should not be used is in church. These are among the findings of a new Pew Research poll.

Pew experts reported:

Some 92% of U.S. adults now have a cellphone of some kind, and 90% of those cell owners say that their phone is frequently with them. Some 31% of cell owners say they never turn their phone off and 45% say they rarely turn it off.

Those points should be obvious to any American who spends time in social settings at all. People accept some use of cell phones in public, but the places they are appropriate changes from setting to setting:

It turns out that people think different kinds of public and social settings warrant different sensitivities about civil behavior. For instance, fully 77% of all adults think it is generally OK for people to use their cellphones while walking down the street and 75% believe it is OK for others to use phones on public transit. But only 38% think it is generally OK for others to use cellphones at restaurants and just 5% think it is generally OK to use a cellphone at a meeting.

The measure is not much different from whether people should speak loudly in public places, an issue that existed for centuries before the cell phone era.

Most people do use their cell phones in social settings to actually gather information for people in the gatherings themselves. Presumably, this includes looking up the meaning of words, finding restaurants or settling debates among friends and colleagues:

  • 45% used their phone to post a picture or video they had taken of the gathering.
  • 41% used their phone to share something that had occurred in the group by text, email or social networking site.
  • 38% used their phone to get information they thought would be interesting to the group.
  • 31% used their phone to connect with other people who are known to the group.

But opinions about where cell phones can or cannot be used in public vary widely. Some 96% said it is not OK to use a cell phone in church. Based on the growth of acceptable use in public, this number might be 50% in a few years.

Methodology: Data in this report were drawn from Pew Research Center’s American Trends Panel, a probability-based, nationally representative panel. This survey was conducted May 30, 2014, through June 30, 2014, among 3,217 adults, including 3,042 cellphone users. The margin of error on the full sample is plus or minus 2.2 percentage points and for the cell-user sample is 2.3 points.

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