Six in 10 Americans view the Internet industry either very or somewhat positively -- up from a year ago and easily the highest positive rating in 15 years, a Gallup poll has found.
Positive perceptions of the Internet industry rose from an average 46 percent between 2001 and 2005 to 52 percent between 2006 and 2014, before reaching Wednesday's 60 percent, according to the poll released Wednesday.
Currently, 16 percent of Americans view the industry negatively, and 22 percent are neutral, Gallup found.
The term "Internet industry" may mean different things to different people, and Gallup did not define the term in the question it asked respondents, but experts generally define it as companies that provide access to or operate primarily on the Internet.
This would include Internet portals and search engines, as well as e-commerce, lifestyle, entertainment and social media sites, Gallup said.
While there is no obvious reason why Americans have become more favorable toward the Internet industry in just the past year, Gallup indicated that positive perceptions are higher today than the 2006-2014 average among most key demographic groups.
It has increased especially among Republicans and independents, while showing little improvement among Democrats, Gallup found.
Longer term, one of the reasons the Internet industry's image has improved since the early 2000s is that older Americans view it as more positive as they become more familiar with it. From 2001-2005, 37 percent of adults aged 55 and older had a positive impression of the Internet industry and 25 percent a negative impression, with 39 percent neutral or unsure.
Today, 54 percent view it positively and 20 percent negatively, with 26 percent neutral or unsure, according to Gallup.
As more Americans have Internet access at home, use smartphones and otherwise integrate the Internet in their lives, their perceptions of the industry have improved, Gallup said.
The Internet provides services that can enhance people's daily lives, and at least for now, it appears these benefits outweigh any downside Americans may perceive in terms of cost or privacy. One question is whether consumers continue to feel the Internet is on their side, or whether they grow to want more government intervention.
However, amid current debate over the merits of various proposed regulations, it is notable that far more Americans have a positive view of the Internet industry than of the federal government, 60 percent vs. 25 percent, respectively, Gallup said.