Half of Americans think Facebook is a passing fad, according to the results of a new Associated Press-CNBC poll. And, in the run-up to the social network's initial public offering of stock, half of Americans also say the social network's expected asking price is too high.
The company Mark Zuckerberg created as a Harvard student eight years ago is preparing for what looks to be the biggest Internet IPO ever. Expected later this week, Facebook's Wall Street debut could value the company at $100 billion, making it worth more than Disney, Ford and Kraft Foods.
That's testament to the impressive numbers Facebook has posted in its relatively brief history. More than 40 percent of American adults log in to the site - to share news, personal observations, photos and more - at least once a week. In all, about 900 million people around the world are users. Facebook's revenue grew from $777 million in 2009 to $3.7 billion last year. And in the first quarter of 2012 it was more than $1 billion.
Just a third of those surveyed think the company's expected value is appropriate, while 50 percent say it is too high. Those who invest in the stock market are more likely to see shares as overvalued, 58 percent said so. About 3 in 10 investors say the expected value of shares is fair. Facebook on Tuesday lifted the expected price for its shares to $34 to $38 apiece from $28 to $35 each.
But price worries won't necessarily stop would-be investors. Half the people surveyed say they think Facebook is a good bet, while 31 percent do not. The rest aren't sure. Americans who invest in stocks roughly agree, although investors who are more "active" - those who have changed their holdings in the past month - are more negative. Nearly 40 percent say Facebook would not be a good investment.
Young adults, a majority of whom log on to Facebook daily, are more willing to dance to their hoodie-wearing piper, 28-year-old CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Among Zuckerberg's peers, adults under age 35, 59 percent say Facebook is a good bet. Compare that with the views of senior citizens: Only 39 percent age 65 and over say Facebook shares are a good investment. Nearly half of Gen X'ers (ages 35-44) say the company is a good bet, as do 55 percent of middle-aged people.
Those under 35 are the generation most interested in Facebook's IPO because they've grown up immersed in the social network. They were the first users, logging in from their college dorm rooms. Later, Facebook expanded to allow high-school-age and even younger students to sign up. It's become an integral part of their lives, giving them a launching pad to spread the news of life's major developments.
Conversely, it's the rare senior citizen on Facebook: Just 21 percent have an account. Half of baby boomers - the generation born in the years after World War II - have one.
The Associated Press-CNBC Poll was conducted May 3-7 by GfK Roper Public Affairs and Corporate Communications. It involved landline and cell phone interviews with 1,004 adults nationwide and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.9 percentage points.