Smartphone owners are happier with the world, Microsoft poll says


Microsoft asked 10,000 Internet users from around the world about their attitudes toward technology. (Courtey of Microsoft/Courtesy of Microsoft)

Here’s a little-known fact: Owning a smartphone can make you feel better about the world. At least, that’s what a recent poll from Microsoft has found.

A global Microsoft poll, released at the Davos World Economic Forum, found smartphone owners around the globe see the world as more “cooperative and harmonious” than non-smartphone owners. They’re also more likely to think social values are improving than eroding — 51 percent of smartphone owners held that positive view, versus 33 percent of non-smartphone owners.

The result is just one of several effects of technology that Microsoft measured as part of a wide-ranging poll to determine how personal tech has changed everything from how Internet users in 10 countries view the arts to how it alters their parenting techniques.

Microsoft Executive Vice President of Advertising & Strategy Mark Penn said that Microsoft wanted to get a good snapshot of how the connected world views technology.

“It establishes a baseline for the future,” Penn said. “It’s hard to find polls that really looked at how people valued technology in their lives across cultures.”

On the whole, poll respondents said that technology has had a “mostly positive impact,” particularly in areas such as business innovation, education, productivity and economic opportunity.

On the lower end of the scale, respondents also said that technology has had a negative effect on privacy — 47 percent said it had a mostly negative impact versus 19 percent claiming a positive impact. Privacy, in fact, was the only issue where more respondents said technology had a negative impact than a positive one.

Parents in the poll had some particularly striking thoughts about technology and its effect on their children, though reactions were split depending on where they live. In developing countries such as Brazil, Russia, India and China, 79 percent of parents said they want their children to have more access to technology. In countries such as the U.S., France and Japan, 56 percent said they wanted their children to have less access to technology.

A similar divide popped up when asking about the positive effects of technology — parents in developing countries said they saw tech as a tool to let their children broaden their knowledge of the world. In developed nations, parents saw technology more as way to build necessary skills for the future.

But all parents — regardless of where they live — agreed that technology can expose their children to “dangerous people and adult content” and worry that too much technology will make the younger generation lazy and inattentive.

“It’s interesting that parents were putting up a yellow flag about technology,” Penn said, saying that it’s important for technology firms such as Microsoft to address those concerns.

“As a company, Microsoft is signaling that we think privacy is important,” he said. “That’s an important lesson that comes out of the poll as well.”

Penn said that hopes that the study also busts some myths about the effect of technology on the economy, noting that most of the global online users in their poll said they believe tech helps bridge economic gaps. In fact, Japan was the only place where respondents said they think technology is more of a barrier than a bridge.

The tech giant worked with Penn Schoen Berland to ask roughly 10,000 Internet users from China, Mexico, Russia, India, Turkey, Brazil, Germany, the U.S., France and Japan about their attitudes toward technology from Dec. 26, 2013, to Jan. 3 2014.

Follow The Post’s new tech blog, The Switch, where technology and policy connect.

Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.
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