The dominance of BlackBerry devices in Washington is waning, although they still have an edge over rival smartphones, according to a National Journal survey of how workers on Capitol Hill, in the executive branch, and the private sector use technology and consume media.
In January, 77 percent of Capitol Hill staffers said they have BlackBerrys, down from 93 percent in 2009, the last time the survey was conducted. Just 1 percent of those surveyed who work on Capitol Hill said they were planning to buy one. In 2009, 76 percent of the private-sector staff surveyed said they owned BlackBerrys, but now just 50 percent do. The technology’s predominance fell among federal executives, from 76 percent to 57 percent. Fewer than 1 percent in the private sector and executive branch planned to buy a BlackBerry.
Apple’s iPhone has taken a chunk of the BlackBerry’s market share, the online survey found 41 percent of Capitol Hill staffers surveyed said they have an iPhone, as do 42 percent of private-sector workers and 27 percent of federal executives. In 2009, iPhones were rarer: Of the 1,184 Washington workers surveyed, just 13 percent on Capitol Hill, 15 percent in the private sector, and 9 percent in the executive branch reported having one.
Washington’s enterprise IT community has been warming to the iPhone, though it lacks the data and messaging security of a BlackBerry. Last month, for instance, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said it would begin issuing employees iPhones instead.
Research in Motion, the Canadian company that makes the BlackBerry, stressed the security capabilities of the devices.
"In an era of real cyber security threats and attacks, BlackBerry continues to offer unmatched security, reliability and value for government agencies concerned about securing and protecting sensitive government information," the company said in a statement. "Today, that includes over one million government customers in North America alone."
The January survey included 1,225 people: 273 Hill staffers, 673 private-sector public-affairs professionals, and 279 federal executives. It also focused on media.
The survey found that Washington’s three most popular social networks are Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. Facebook was the most popular network with Capitol Hill workers (84 percent said they use it), followed by LinkedIn (60 percent), and Twitter (49 percent). Facebook also was tops with executive-branch users (63 percent), with LinkedIn (52 percent) and Twitter (24 percent) trailing. In the private sector, though, LinkedIn was the most popular (75 percent), leading Facebook (64 percent) and Twitter (43 percent).
Most Twitter users on Capitol Hill and in the private sector say it is a “news source.” Federal executives, given a choice of descriptors, called Twitter “pointless babble.” In 2009, nearly all chose “pointless babble” to characterize Twitter.
Most of those surveyed said that they did not use Twitter or Facebook on behalf of others. But of those who did, 14 percent on Capitol Hill said they used social media on behalf of their bosses, compared with 1 percent in the private sector and none in the executive branch. Yet, 19 percent of those in the private sector said they used Twitter or Facebook on behalf of an organization or company, compared with 7 percent of those both on the Hill and in the executive branch.
Traditional media still have value when it comes to Washington’s No. 1 pastime. The vast majority of those surveyed—87 percent of Hill staffers, 89 percent of private-sector professionals, and 74 percent of federal executives—said they have viewed or were planning to view election-night coverage on TV or online. A similar number said they have watched one of this cycle’s Republican presidential debates on TV or online or planned to.
Interestingly, 71 percent of Hill respondents said they follow news about campaigns and elections because they enjoy it, as did 65 percent in the private sector and 47 percent of federal executives. Also, 58 percent on the Hill said they need to follow the news to stay up-to-date for their jobs, compared with 64 percent of the private sector and 24 percent in the executive branch.
This article appears in the March 12, 2012, edition of National Journal Daily.