March 23, 2011 at 3:25 PM ET
In what is called a "striking shift" in the way money for charity is given, Americans under 40 are now "just as likely" to give donations to disaster relief via electronic means as through more traditional avenues, according to a new report by the Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project. And giving in the wake of Japan's disaster is evidence of that.
"More than a third of those who have already donated (36 percent) say they made their contribution digitally — online, through text messages or email," Pew said in its report.
"Among those younger than 40, about as many have donated digitally as through more traditional methods. Older Americans are also more likely than in the past to give to disaster relief efforts via electronic means, but they still prefer traditional methods of giving."
The survey was done March 17-20 under the direction of Princeton Survey Research Associates International, using a national sample of 1,003 adults 18 years and older in the U.S.
In the days after the March 11 disaster that struck Japan, Pew said:
... some 12 percent of Americans between ages 18 and 39 say they donated money to relief via the Internet or their cellphone. Another 12 percent in that age group say they gave through traditional means such as over the phone, in person, or by postal mail.
That is a notable jump in the proportion of under-40 Americans who gave digitally in the aftermath of the Indian Ocean tsunami (in 2004). At that time, 5 percent of Americans ages 18-39 donated to relief efforts and 20 percent donated via traditional means.
No matter whether the means is digital or traditional, giving to others in times of need is something Americans are known for. Early indications after the disaster was that relief efforts to Japan were lower than in other recent disasters, noted msnbc.com's Allison Linn.
"The difference may have a lot to do with perceptions of Japan's wealth and preparedness to handle a major disaster, versus the resources available to an underdeveloped country such as Haiti," experts told her.
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