Throughout human history, people have sought assistance from others in meeting romantic partners – and Americans today are increasingly looking for love online by enlisting the services of online dating sites and a new generation of mobile dating apps. A national survey by Pew Research Center, conducted June 10-July 12, 2015, among 2,001 adults, finds that:
- 12% of American adults have ever used an online dating site, up slightly from 9% in early 2013.
- 9% of American adults have ever used a dating app on their cellphone. The share of Americans who use dating apps has increased threefold since early 2013 – at that point just 3% of Americans had used these apps.
Taken together, a total of 15% of American adults now report that they have used online dating sites and/or mobile dating apps, up from the 11% who reported doing so in early 2013.1
This growth has been especially pronounced for two groups who have historically not used online dating at particularly high levels – the youngest adults, as well as those in their late 50s and early 60s.
The share of 18- to 24-year-olds who report having used online dating has nearly tripled in the last two years. Today 27% of these young adults report that they have done so, up from just 10% in early 2013. Meanwhile, the share of 55- to 64-year-olds who use online dating has doubled over the same time period (from 6% in 2013 to 12% in 2015).
For young adults in particular, this overall increase in online dating usage has been accompanied by a dramatic increase in the use of mobile dating apps. Fully 22% of 18- to 24-year-olds now report using mobile dating apps, a more than fourfold increase from the 5% who reported using dating apps in 2013. These young adults are now more likely than any other age group to use mobile dating apps.
41% of Americans know someone who uses online dating; 29% know someone who has met a spouse or long-term partner via online dating
Although 15% of Americans have used online dating themselves, a larger share report that they are familiar with online dating from the experiences of people they know. Some 41% of American adults say they know someone who uses online dating, while 29% indicate they know someone who has married or entered into a long-term partnership with someone they met via online dating.
As was the case in previous Pew Research Center surveys of online dating, college graduates and the relatively affluent are especially likely to know people who use online dating or to know people who have entered into a relationship that began online. Nearly six-in-ten college graduates (58%) know someone who uses online dating, and nearly half (46%) know someone who has entered into a marriage or long-term partnership with someone they met via online dating. By comparison, just 25% of those with a high school diploma or less know someone who uses online dating – and just 18% know someone who has entered into a long-term relationship with someone they met this way.
Those who have tried online dating offer mixed opinions about the experience – most have a positive outlook, even as they recognize certain downsides
Users of online dating are generally positive – but far from universally so – about the pros and cons of dating digitally. On one hand, a majority of online dating users agree that dating digitally has distinct advantages over other ways of meeting romantic partners:
- 80% of Americans who have used online dating agree that online dating is a good way to meet people.
- 62% agree that online dating allows people to find a better match, because they can get to know a lot more people.
- 61% agree that online dating is easier and more efficient than other ways of meeting people.
On the other hand, a substantial minority of these users agree that meeting people online can have potential negative consequences:
- 45% of online dating users agree that online dating is more dangerous than other ways of meeting people.
- 31% agree that online dating keeps people from settling down, because they always have options for people to date.
- 16% agree with the statement “people who use online dating sites are desperate.”
But despite these reservations, those who have personally used online dating themselves – or know someone who does – tend to have much more positive attitudes compared to those with little direct exposure to online dating or online daters. For instance, just 55% of non-users agree that online dating is a good way to meet people, while six-in-ten agree that online dating is more dangerous than other ways of meeting people.
Overall, men and women who have used online dating tend to have similar views of the pros and cons – with one major exception relating to personal safety. Some 53% of women who have used online dating agree that it is more dangerous than other ways of meeting people, substantially higher than the 38% of male online daters who agree with this statement.