More and more Americans are interacting with local, state and federal government offices online. They are turning to the Web to renew driver's licenses and car registrations, to apply for hunting and fishing permits, to pay parking tickets and other fines and even to track campaign contributions and stimulus spending, according to a study being released Tuesday.
In a survey of more than 2,000 American adults conducted in late 2009, the Pew Internet & American Life Project found that 82 percent of Internet users — or 61 percent of American adults — had looked up information or completed a transaction on a government Web site over the previous year.
"Recently, we've seen government agencies at all levels emphasize the use of online tools in engaging citizens in interesting ways and making data available to ordinary citizens," said Aaron Smith, research specialist with the Pew Internet & American Life Project. "Those efforts appear to be resonating."
The survey found that:
—46 percent of Internet users had looked up government services;
—41 percent had downloaded government forms;
—35 percent had researched government documents or statistics;
—23 percent had obtained information about or applied for government benefits.
Use of government services online, the Pew study showed, went up with income and education. The poll found that 91 percent of Internet users with an income of $50,000 a year or higher and 89 percent with at least some college education had looked up information or completed a transaction on a government Web site. That compares with 76 percent of Internet users who earn less than $50,000 a year and 70 percent who have at most a high school education.
The Pew report is based on telephone surveys of 2,258 American adults conducted between Nov. 30 and Dec. 27. The margin of error for the survey is plus or minus 2.4 percent.
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