April 20, 2015

5 facts about online dating

A lot has changed since Match.com launched (pdf) on April 21, 1995. Then, only 14% of American adults were internet users, and online dating options were scarce. Today, nearly nine-in-ten Americans are online, and dating on the Web has grown in both popularity and acceptance. Although several dating sites have launched since Match.com’s debut, the company remains the most visited online dating site, attracting significantly more visitors than its closest competitor, according to July 2014 comScore data.

As Match.com celebrates its 20th anniversary, here are five facts about online dating from Pew Research Center’s 2013 survey:

1Online dating has lost much of its stigma. A majority of Americans now say online dating is a good way to meet people, when that hasn’t always been the case.

FT_online-dating-attitudesWhen we first studied online dating habits in 2005, most Americans had little exposure to online dating or to the people who use it, and they tended to view it as a subpar way of meeting people. Today, almost half of the public knows someone who uses online dating or who has met a spouse or partner via online dating—and their attitudes towards online dating have grown progressively more positive.

To be sure, there are still lots of people today who don’t really understand why someone would want to find a romantic partner online—21% of Americans agree with the statement that “people who use online dating sites are desperate”—but in general it is much more culturally acceptable than it was just eight years ago.

2One-in-five adults ages 25-34 years old have used online dating, but it’s also popular with older singles, too.

FT_14.02.13_onlinedating_310Online dating peaks among people in their mid-20s through mid-40s. Some 22% of 25-34 year olds and 17% of 35-44 year olds have used an online dating site or mobile dating app. Indeed, 45-54 year olds are just as likely to date online as are 18-24 year olds (8% of 45-54 year olds and 10% of 18-24 year olds are online daters). This might seem counterintuitive—aren’t most of those 18-24 year olds single? But middle-aged adults are often described as a “thin dating market,” meaning that they have a relatively limited number of available partners within their immediate social circles. Other researchers have argued that online dating is most useful to people in these thin dating markets, and our own findings seem to bear this out in the case of age.

3One-third of people who have used online dating have never actually gone on a date with someone they met on these sites.

If you haven’t found quite what you’re looking for on an online dating site, you aren’t alone. Two thirds of online daters—66%—tell us that they have gone on a date with someone they met through a dating site or dating app.  That is a substantial increase from the 43% of online daters who had actually progressed to the date stage when we first asked this question in 2005. But it still means that one-third of online daters have not yet met up in real life with someone they initially found on an online dating site.

4One-in-five online daters have asked someone else to help them with their profile.

Many online daters enlist their friends in an effort to put their best digital foot forward. Some 22% of online daters have asked someone to help them create or review their profile. Women are especially likely to enlist a friend in helping them craft the perfect profile—30% of female online daters have done this, compared with 16% of men.

55% of Americans who are in a marriage or committed relationship say they met their significant other online.

Despite the wealth of digital tools that allow people to search for potential partners, and even as one-in-ten Americans are now using one of the many online dating platforms, the vast majority of relationships still begin offline. Even among Americans who have been with their spouse or partner for five years or less, fully 88% say that they met their partner offline–without the help of a dating site.

Quiz: Online Dating: What’s Your View?

Report: How American Couples Use Technology

NOTE: This post was updated on April 20, 2015.

Category: 5 Facts

Topics: Online Dating

  1. Photo of Aaron Smith

    is a senior researcher focusing on the internet and technology at Pew Research Center.

  2. is a research analyst focusing on internet, science and technology at Pew Research Center.

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  1. Daiseree B Bowers2 weeks ago

    I find your website an interesting, and very educational. I am going to use some of your statistical data for my research paper that support my thesis about online dating is an effective way of dating that can lead you into a successful relationship.

  2. Radio LaPrincess1 month ago

    One thing to take in consideration is when it says 66% got dates from online that doesn’t mean that 66% were all relationships. I did online for several years and got a few dates from it. However, none of those dates ended up being a relationship. Most of them I never saw again. Also important to remember that this also means not everyone had sex with people they met. I never even kissed any of the guys I met, let alone sex. Most were situations where we met (usually not with traditional dates, more like lunch or afternoon) and never saw each other again. The most common reasons were that one or more of us just wasn’t interested or that he lied (usually age or weight).

    Otherwise, online didn’t work for me. As a single childless 44 year old woman I just don’t appeal to the crowd I desire, at least online. By this I mean I was only seeking men 10 years around my age (older or younger)without kids. Most of the men who contacted me were much older (often older than my dad), much younger (looking for a cougar or sugar mama), single dads (not interested in being a stepmother), married men, or guys strictly looking for sex. When I did find a man like me he ended up doing things like stalking me. I had a guy Google my photo and show up at an activity I am involved with and another guy threaten to kill me. I had other guys who got way too obsessed, like a guy who insisted I didn’t talk to other men even though we hadn’t met yet (and didn’t because of this). Another guy threatened suicide if I didn’t date him (also never met). When I posted my photos I got hundreds of messages but most were from guys only interested in my looks. I am attractive (former model)but want to be judged based on mutual interests. Most of these men had nothing in common with me. I ended up quitting online dating because it was a waste of time meeting a guy who either lied, had no interest in me (or me in him), or just seeking sex (and usually married).

    1. Insidious_Sid2 weeks ago

      The sheer magnitude of attention females get on dating sites (some get 100’s of responses a day) can cause their heads to swell. In “real life” I am amazed at the quality of women I can have a good conversation with, and even ask out. Online, I am looking at (no word of a lie) a 3-point “SMV” handicap. You read that right. In real life I can approach and pick up a 7 without too much trouble (although 8’s are starting to get out of my league). Online I have overweight 4’s and women old enough to be my mother giving me the “meh” routine. Women on the sites have an over-estimated sense of their mate value because of the attention they get. Sadly, most of that attention is just horny men looking for “just sex”. Myself, I am forthcoming about my weight, age, income, the fact I have 2 kids and I use recent pictures with body and head shots. That’s right ladies, we know the “headshot only trick”. Average size indeed. Average these days is “FAT”. If you can’t openly represent yourself HONESTLY maybe wait on the dating site and spend some time at the gym first. I don’t know why overweight people feel entitled to date people who put time and effort into eating right and exercising. It’s just baffling.

      I think the only reason men use dating sites is they are socially inept and can’t approach women in person. Sure, it’s a neat way to avoid that initial “rejection risk” but trust me guys. It’s WORTH IT. Risk getting rejected. And you’d be surprised how pleasant most people are when rejecting you anyways. In person they say “Oh, well I have a boyfriend” or “Gee I’m really too busy with work right now”. That means NO. Not “let’s be friends” – it means NO! Learn social conventions, learn how to approach women with grace, finesse and zero creepy factor and you can avoid the demoralizing process of the online dating world.

      Leave online dating to the horny losers who don’t have the stones to approach a woman in public and say something that wont have her reaching for her rape whistle.

      Rant /over

  3. Chap Oscar Music City Mingle2 months ago

    Your research validates the direction online dating is headed into the future as we become more isolated socially. People have grown so accustomed to digital associations it has become difficult to have face to face interactions. As Dating and Adult sites go we have found our niche encouraging more dialogue and discovery first and foremost. Music City Mingle also has a Spiritual Spot Global Mingle that caters to those Seekers.

    1. Chap Oscar MusicCityMingle1 month ago

      We always turn to Pew Research to gain insights that are fact based. The job of every leader is to cultivate and protect trust in a very distrustful world. My goal as a Visionary Thought Leader is to change the dating conversation to a trusting relationship first and foremost.

  4. Gabe Keith2 months ago

    Good article, can I ask where stat number 5 came from? I am seeing so many different reports on that number.


  5. Josh2 months ago

    It’s neat to see how far things have changed. Now you have credible sites for gamers (LFGdating.com) and farmers (farmersonly.com), and not only that but they both have commercials.

  6. Cher2 months ago

    I used meetme to find my guy after coming out of a 20 yr relationship. I talked to a lot of different people for a few months and met a few guys from it, who were real and genuine. I finally met my guy and he’s 6 yrs younger than me. We had a lot of common interests and we clicked. It’s been 1 and 1/2 yrs and it’s been great and very interesting. I never thought at 40 I would do this but it’s been a great thing. Still going strong.

  7. Steve4 months ago

    I gotta wonder why you don’t talk about the way these online dating sites Rob people blind.How they charge hidden fees pay extremely Hot women to pretend to be into you to the point where if you actually do meet a real person your to gun-shy to believe that it is a REAL person.It’s JUST a BIG FREE FOR ALL SCAM NONE OF IT IS WORTH IT.

  8. John4 months ago

    I just want to say that online dating should be heavily regulated and include some type of fine of some sort to websites that falsely advertise or allow members to scam others.

    Long story short… I was married for 12 years and now recently divorced. I didn’t know where to begin and wasn’t from the generation that did online dating. I’m 33… Any way, I thought what the heck I will give it a shot. I tried zoosk, match, POF, eta. You name it I had a profile on every dating website. I became absolutely horrified because literally 100% of all women I tried to date was a scam. For example. One woman (or so I thought) we had been chatting for a while and the upcoming Friday we were going to go on a date in Atlanta, Ga were I live. At the last minute “she” canceled because apparently she was stuck in Zimbobway and needed me to wire $100 so she could get home. Of course I didn’t fall for the scam but I was so burned up that I wasted all that time. It happened on literary every single dating site and I never had even 1 real person respond. Dating websites are just a ses pool for scammers. I found the old fashion way (bars, parks, Church groups) etc is still the way to go. In my opinion websites should be heavily regulated and fined when scammers get on their website or people post fake pictures.

    1. Binet3 months ago

      Hi John,
      I agree with you 100%, I am from Africa and believe me even us women out there get scammed too. You have people posting fake photos or claiming to be someone they are not, they have become so good at it that the conversations get so real and convincing to everyone who tries to chat with them.
      like every scammer, they always make a mistake somewhere and when they are caught they become so defensive or abusive.
      I still believe there are good and genuine people out there, we just have to be wise in our choices and pray for god’s direction..

  9. anonymous4 months ago

    A few words of advice about online dating:
    1. Posting pictures on your profile is paramount. But unless people viewing your profile are interested in photography, they are only interested in pictures of YOU. They are NOT interested in pictures of your family, pets, vacation, etc. so do not post these kind of pictures.

    2. If you make a date then want to break it, have the decency to call the person on the phone. Only cowards break a date by sending an email or a text. Also, don’t act like a real jerk by either not contacting the person at all, or waiting until they call you before you tell them you can’t keep the date. Call them, and call them when you know you’re not going to keep the date.

    3. If someone sends you a message on an internet dating site, and you’re NOT interested, DON’T reply. Sending a reply will probably entice the person to keep sending you more messages. Also, don’t say something stupid like you already have a boyfriend or girlfriend. It’s not believable….if that’s really the situation with you, then why are you still on the dating site?

    4. Post the CORRECT city and state where you live in your profile. It sounds simple and common sense, but intentionally posting an incorrect city and state does happen.

    5. If you receive a call for the first time from someone you’ve given your number to, and you can’t talk to them at that time, then YOU should take the initiative to return the call. DON’T tell them to call back. They made the call, and obviously didn’t know it was a bad time for you to speak.

  10. David Steve Matthe4 months ago

    Writing on Dating; how do I get a response? is it through Facebook or waiting for sometime?
    Should I know the person I’m dating?. Or it depends to the requirements in terms of matchmaking on profession. It is the first time I get involved on dating. I will continue until I get the right approach.

  11. Lucy Mark6 months ago

    I had the same doubt in mind a few years ago until I came across MillionaireDating-Sites.com. This site has comprehensive reviews of the best dating sites currently available on the market. And that’s not all; the UI is so simple that I didn’t have the slightest of difficulties in navigating through the site. Moreover, there is also a little blog section, which I’m sure would have loads of interesting content in the near future.

  12. Julie Spira7 months ago

    When I first went online in 1994, there was definitely a stigma and people didn’t say how they were meeting. This has dramatically changed. I’m not surprised that 30% of women have asked for help with their profiles. I believe that more men are doing so as well, based on the amount of men I’ve worked with in the past few years. We can thank the use of Facebook and smartphones for helping online dating become a way of bringing happiness to many. I have three weddings to attend this year from couples who met online. ~Julie Spira CyberDatingExpert.com.

  13. keith jernigan7 months ago

    Would be better if more people on here where honest and if the scammers out there where caught and thrown in jail.the the stolen pics and the people in them would press charges instead of allowing their pics to be used,I Realize some don’t know they are being used but alot either do and don’t care or they may even be selling them or prostituting them.
    Even so some so called Christian sites have fake people plus alot want to charge and no way should you ever evev give out your card out to any site.use a pay care but not your own personal one ever.too many hackers.

  14. pat10 months ago

    I;m one of the 33% who never got a date on any of the dating sites i’ve been on…and ive been on at least 7.

    1. F7 months ago

      Wow. Seven sites and zero dates.

    2. Jalex7 months ago

      i so surry pat, u seem so nice too

    3. Polina Slesarchuk7 months ago

      Pat, I have been thinking that online dating is not for me for quite a long time. I tried Tinder and other apps, was quite shocked how close people want to go from the very start when they write you: what’s up? Do you wanna go to a club? Yeah, my number is 911 and save it as a Booty Call lol. A friend suggested I try kovla.com/datings/us/atlanta when I was at a loss in terms of my online dating experience. To tell you the truth, I did spend some time evaluating both profiles and the meaning behind them by chatting with several guys, and only after that I went on a date. So far it’s been a good experience for me. Not yet sure he is my prince charming, but I am having my next date on Saturday. Wish you luck!

  15. John Walsh1 year ago

    I have used online dating for 14 years and live in Ireland . I married a Russian woman and lived with her 9 years and divorced . We have a better relationship since the divorce her children put too much strain on the relationship . I still continue to date in the Philippines and have met some there . The big problem is many look for money and see a foreign man as a way to get money for their children or family . I would suggest do not marry or buy a house there until you know them at least 2 years . I have heard many horror online dating stories some first hand.

    1. Trey1 year ago

      I got involved with a single mother through online dating. It was the biggest mistake of my life. Better to be single for the rest of your life than get involved in a situation where bratty children who aren’t yours test your patience and an antagonistic ex tries to goad you into fights. What the hell was I thinking!? I’m lucky I escaped from that mess. Never again.

  16. Sinan2 years ago

    Encouraging and very valuable information. I have been involved with launching an online dating site (personalitymatch.net) and I can attest that the use is increasing, market is growing, and attitudes are changing. With that growth we are going to find smarter and better online dating sites as well, such as personalitymatch.net -if I say so myself!

  17. Jeff Jones2 years ago

    My wife and I met online 16 years ago. We are now celebrating our 15th anniversary. We used Christian Matchmaker, and my wife’s best friend filled out the questionnaire for her without her knowing about it. We connected in the two week free trial period. Funny story, I took her pastor out to lunch to learn more about her. Her mother’s best friend was a member of my congregation and she learned about me through that connection. I was divorced, and didn’t want to do the bar scene, or parents without partners, or other church’s singles ministries. In Search Of personals in the paper were not very satisfactory. The questionnaire online gave us a great match up score and included a lot of helpful information about each other. It was met with great ridicule at the time, but I thought it was a great way to meet the right people.

  18. slk2 years ago

    i was always amused, by that commercial, where the woman says she doesn’t have the time to look for a relationship, but wondered how she would find the time to “keep” the relationship!!! call me old fashion, but you “feel” love, not google it!!!

  19. Erika Gayle Ettin2 years ago

    As someone in the industry, I love these results, especially #4. And I can tell you that 60% of my clients are female. :) alittlenudge.com

    1. Smooth Edward2 years ago

      Only 5% currently in a marriage or committed relationship met online? Those are not exactly stellar results. I thought is was interesting how many people use the service but have never gone on dates with someone else on the same service. As an industry professional, do those numbers seem right? Why would so many be there but not date?

      1. Carol2 years ago

        I’ve heard recently (though I don’t know how true the statistic actually is) that 1 in 3 NEW relationships are now beginning online. In other words, out of all marriages/committed relationships that are existing, which includes people who’ve been married for 20-30 years (before online dating), 5% of THOSE began online. I think it’s a much higher percentage of couples who have recently (last 5 years maybe?) gotten together.