POSTED BY: | October 14, 2010

Pew Internet & American Life Project

Almost a fifth of American adults (19%) have tried video calling either online or via their cell phones.

That figure comes from adding up the number of adults who said they either had made a video or teleconferencing call online (17% of adults have done that) or made video calls on their cell phones (6% of adults have done that). In many cases people have placed video calls on both the internet and their cell phone. Those who answered yes to both questions were only counted once in the overall tally of video callers.

These figures translate into 23% of internet users and 7% of cell phone owners who have participated in video calls, chats, or teleconferences.

These figures were gathered in a survey of 3,001 American adults (ages 18 and older) between Aug. 9 and Sept. 13, 2010. The margin of error is +/- 3 percentage points.

This is the first survey of the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project that has covered both online and cell-phone video calls, so there are no prior comparable data to show how much the activity is increasing. In the internet realm, video calling has risen modestly from 20% of internet users in April 2009 to 23% of internet users in the summer 2010 survey. On any given day, 4% of internet users are participating in video calls, video chat or teleconferencing, up from 2% in April 2009.

Some of the key findings in the most recent survey related to online video calls, which are conducted by 23% of the adults who are internet users:

  • Video calling online is especially appealing to upscale users. A third of internet users (34%) living in households earning $75,000 or more have participated in such calls or chats, compared with 18% of those earning less than $75,000.
  • Younger internet users are considerably more likely to conduct video calls. Some 29% of the internet users ages 18-29 have participated in video calls or chats or teleconferences, compared with 15% of internet users ages 65 or older.
  • Online men are more likely than online women to participate in online video calls (26% vs. 20%).
  • Urban internet users (27%) and suburban users (23%) are significantly more likely than rural users (12%) to have participated in video calls, chats or teleconferences.
  • On a typical day, 4% of internet users participate in video calls, chats or teleconferences. That is a uptick from the Pew Internet Project’s April 2009 survey, when 2% of internet users reported participating in online video exchanges.

Some of the key findings in the most recent survey related to video calls on cell phones, which are conducted by 7% of the adults who cell phone owners:

  • Cell-owning blacks are more likely than whites to participate in video calls, chats or teleconferences (10% vs. 5%).
  • Those in upper-income households are more likely than others to participate in video calls (10% of cell owners in households earning over $75,000 participate in such calls, compared with 6% who live in households earning less than $75,000).
  • Cell owners younger than age 50 are more likely than those older than age 50 to have participated in such video calls (8% vs. 4%).


Video calling has become increasingly available as camcorders have spread through the online environment, cameras have been built into smart phones, and as video-chat services like Skype, Google Talk and Apple iChat have become a feature of the online and smart-phone environment. Teleconferencing is also becoming more embedded in the business environment.

This summer, in a nationally-representative telephone survey using landlines and cell phones, the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Project asked for the first time about the prevalence of video calling both online and on cell phones.

The survey of 3,001 adults found that 74% of American adults are internet users and, among those internet users, 23% have participated in video calls, chats or teleconferences. The survey also found that 85% of American adults have cell phones and, among those cell owners, 7% have used their phones for video calls, chats, or teleconferences. Overall, that means that 18% of Americans have either used the internet or their cell phone to participate in video calls—and in many cases, people have used both technologies for video chats.

Access the full report here.