TVs, Landline Phones Drop in Importance

August 20, 2010

Consumers are increasingly less likely to consider TV sets and landline phones as necessities, according to new data from the Pew Social & Demographic Trends Center.

TV Importance Drops 10 Points since ’09
Just 42% of Americans say they consider the TV set to be a necessity in 2010. By comparison, this figure was 52% in 2009 and in 2006, it was 64%.


The drop-off has been less severe for the landline telephone: Some 62% of Americans say it’s a necessity of life, down from 68% last year.

Most Items Decrease
Interestingly, most items, including more modern devices such as cell phones, have actually dropped in consumer importance rating since last year. For example, 47% of consumers think cell phones are a necessity, compared to 49% in 2009. And 49% think personal computers are a necessity, compared to 50% a year ago.

The leading item, the automobile, was considered a necessity by 86% of consumers this year but 88% last year. Beyond the TV set, the clothes dryer experienced the largest drop in percentage points, falling from being considered a necessity by 66% of consumers in 2009 to 59% in 2010 (a seven-point decline).

High-speed Internet, Flatscreen TV Gain
Only three items were considered a necessity by a higher percentage of consumers in 2010 than in 2009. High-speed internet jumped three percentage points, from 31% to 34%, while flatscreen TVs jumped two percentage points, from 8 to 10%.

A long-established technology, air conditioning, jumped two percentage points between 2009 and 2010, from 54% to 55%. Cable/satellite TV and the dishwasher remained flat.

TV, Landline Dependency Grows with Age
As consumers age, they are more likely to consider both TV and the landline phone as necessities. Only 29% of those 18-29 consider a TV set a necessity, compared to 53% of those 65 and older.


Similarly, 46% of those 18-29 consider a landline phone a necessity, compared to 77% of those 65 and older. Conversely, 59% of those 18-29 consider a cell phone a necessity, compared to 29% of those 65 and older.

Broadband Adoption Generally Slows
After several consecutive years of modest but consistent growth, broadband adoption slowed dramatically in 2010, according to the Pew Internet & American Life Project.

Two-thirds of American adults (66%) currently use a high-speed internet connection at home, a figure that is not statistically different from what the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project found at a similar point in 2009, despite the increase in consumers thinking it a necessity. Last year, 63% of Americans were broadband adopters.

About the Data: The Pew Research Center telephone survey (landline as well as cell phone) was conducted among a nationally representative sample of 2,967 adults from May 11-31, 2010

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