There's a wide — and growing — digital divide between high- and low-income shoppers

  • One in 5 low-income Americans say they do a lot or a fair amount of shopping online.
  • That's less than one-third as many as those making $100,000 or more.
  • Fewer low-income people are shopping online than they did two years ago, while more higher-income Americans are shopping online.

The gaping digital divide in the United States is wide and not closing anytime soon.

Only 1 in 5 low-income Americans say they do a lot or a fair amount of their shopping online. That's less than one-third as many as those making six-figure incomes or more, according to results of the latest CNBC All-America Economic Survey.

The 20 percent of shoppers with an income of less than $30,000 a year who do a significant amount of their buying online is up 4 percentage points from five years ago. But it's actually down from 24 percent in 2015.

Meanwhile, the 62 percent of those earning $100,000 or more who do a lot of online shopping is flat from a year ago, and up 17 percentage points over five years ago.

"While an online shopping gap may not be as consequential as a digital divide in education, job training or searching for employment, it is still an illustration of a broader theme in American society," said Jay Campbell, a partner at Hart Research, which conducted the poll with Micah Roberts, a partner at Public Opinion Strategies.

The gap has widened significantly over the past five years, from 29 percentage points in 2012 to 42 percentage points today.

There is also a noticeable difference in online shopping habits between those invested in the stock market and those who are not. About half of those with any investment in the market say they shop online a lot or a fair amount, while that number drops to 26 percent for those with no investments.

"It may not matter much if it's just a matter of a brand of glasses frames or sweater design that is only available online; but it will matter much more as companies move more and more goods and services online and there is a significant slice of the public that simply has no way to access those goods and services," Campbell said. "The gap ultimately perpetuates itself and grows bigger, thus further dividing our society."

The survey of 800 adults was conducted Dec. 10-13 and has a margin of error of 3.5 percent.

(Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated the year-to-year comparison of the rates of low-income people shopping online.)