Ms. Cynthia English, Gallup World Poll specialist, speaking at the Midwest Association for Public Opinion Research conference.

Internet Freedom And Internet Access Are Related At The Country Level, Researchers Report

Countries with a high level of Internet freedom also are likely to have high levels of Internet access, researchers at Gallup and the University of Georgia reported at a public opinion conference in Chicago in November.

The relationship is a modest one, the team found, meaning that Internet freedom does not always lead to higher levels of Internet penetration in a country.

The researchers also found that data gathered by Gallup on Internet penetration through scientific surveys match well with reports on the level of Internet access in countries compiled by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), the United Nations specialized agency for information and communication technologies.

The ITU data come from individual government reports on communication infrastructure and facilities in the countries around the world.

Researchers Cynthia English and Elizabeth Steele from Gallup and Dr. Lee B. Becker and Dr. Tudor Vlad from the Cox International Center at the University of Georgia reported their findings to the conference of the Midwest Association for Public Opinion Research, held at the Embassy Suites Downtown Chicago hotel on Nov. 20 and 21.

The team has collaborated on research on a variety of topics related to the media and public opinion over the last 10 years.

Much of the public opinion data used by the team come from the Gallup World Poll. The Gallup World Poll regularly surveys adult residents in more than 160 countries and areas, representing more than 98% of the world’s adult population.  In most cases, randomly-selected, nationally-representative samples of the entire civilian, non-institutionalized, age 15 and older population of each country are used.

The researchers used the World Poll measures of Internet penetration, the ITU data, and data on media freedom and Internet freedom from Freedom House in the research on which they reported in November. Freedom House in a nongovernmental organization based on Washington and New York that collects data on the media and the Internet as part of its efforts to promote democracy globally.

The researchers found that the Gallup and ITU data were highly correlated, meaning that countries in which people reported high levels of Internet Access also were countries ITU identified as have high levels of net penetration.

Countries with high Internet access based on the Gallup and ITU data also were countries where Freedom House had found high levels of openness in terms of Internet and media activity. That correlation was more modest than for the one for the two Internet penetration measures.

Dr. Becker is director of the James M. Cox Jr. Center for International Mass Communication Training and Research, while Dr. Vlad is associate director of the Center. The Cox Center is a unit of the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia.

English and Steele are specialists within Gallup working on the World Poll.

More than 200 researchers from around the United States attended the MAPOR conference.

For a copy of the paper presented by the research team, click here.