Part 4. Public Attitudes Toward Online Dating
Online daters overwhelmingly view the services as a good way to meet people, but the general online public is split over the merits of online dating.
While respondents were asked specific questions about the use of online dating websites, they were also surveyed about their impressions of online dating more generally. Those who have actually used dating websites report back with favorable reviews. Fully 79% of online daters agree that using dating websites is a good way to meet people, compared with 19% who disagree.
Fully 61% of the internet users who are single and looking for dates agree that online dating is a good venue for finding a mate. However, overall, internet users are split in their view of online dating; while 44% agree that internet dating is a “good way to meet people,” the same percentage disagree with that statement. A sizable segment, 11%, says they do not know. Online men (48%) have a greater tendency to see the benefits of online dating when compared with online women (41%). And, in general, the younger the internet user, the more likely he or she is to rate the services favorably.
Rural internet users are less likely than urban or suburban users to think that online dating is a good way to meet people; 38% of rural users agree that online dating is a good choice, compared with 48% of urban users and 44% of suburban users.
Still, internet users and online daters do agree that online dating helps people to find a better match.
Although the average internet user is not as enamored with online dating as their single and seeking counterparts, they do see the benefits of finding someone online. They agree that online dating allows some people to find a better match because they can get to know a lot more people. Looking at the total pool of internet users, 47% agree that online dating facilitates better pairing. Another 38% disagree and 15% say they do not know.
Online daters are even more supportive of this view. While 64% of online daters agree that online dating helps people find a better match, just 31% disagree. Another 6% say they do not know whether or not online dating facilitates better connections.
Single and looking internet users, by comparison, are equally as likely as online daters to tout the benefits of accessing a larger pool of people online; 64% of single internet users who are looking for someone to date agree that online dating helps people to find a better match, while just 28% disagree.
These sentiments are relatively consistent across different community types and socioeconomic groups, but male internet users and younger internet users have a greater tendency to think online dating creates better couples.
There is no clear consensus about the ease and efficiency of online dating.
Although online dating may present more opportunities to meet potential dates, it does not necessarily remove all of the complexity that comes with the dating process. Online daters are not overwhelmingly convinced that they have found an easier or more efficient way to meet people. About half agree that online dating is easier than other methods, but nearly as many (44%) disagree. Single and looking internet users are also split over this proposition; 45% agree that online dating is relatively easy, while 45% disagree.
Looking at the total population of internet users, just 33% think that online dating is not as difficult as other ways of meeting people, while 53% disagree, and 13% say they do not know. Online men are more likely than women to see the sites as efficient, though it is still a minority view; 36% of them agree that online dating is easier, compared with 30% of online women. Internet users who are ages 30-49, those who have a college degree or more and those who have an annual household income of $75,000 or more also stand out as groups that are more likely to acknowledge the convenience of online dating.
Rural internet users are less likely than urban or suburban users to say that online dating is an easier and more efficient way of meeting people. Just 28% of rural users agree that online dating is easier, while 35% of urban users and 34% of suburban users say this.
Those who see online daters as desperate are the exception rather than the rule.
Regardless of how effective online dating may be, most internet users do not think that online daters are simply turning to cyberspace out of desperation. The majority, 61% of online adults, do not think that people who use online dating are desperate. Just 29% hold the view that online daters are indeed those who are in dire dating straits.
Those who do regard online daters as desperate tend to have less experience online and say they are less trusting of people generally. And although online men are more likely than women to view dating services as a good way to meet people, they are also more likely to categorize online daters as a desperate group.
Single and looking internet users are even less likely to hold this negative view; only 20% agree that online daters are desperate. And while one might expect that none of the online daters themselves would agree with this assessment, 19% do. However, it is likely that these respondents are referring to those they encountered while using dating websites, rather than themselves. Within the small subsection of online daters who hold this negative view, most also report that they personally had negative experiences using the services.
Most internet users think it is risky to post personal information on online dating websites, but online daters are less concerned.
Most internet users (66%) agree that online dating is a dangerous activity because it puts personal information on the internet. Just 25% do not consider online dating dangerous. Female internet users, older users, and those who have lower levels of income or education are among those who are most wary of these risks.
Among those who are single and looking, there is no clear majority view; 51% agree that it is a risky activity and have concerns about exposing personal information through the services, while 44% do not.14
Those who have actually used the services are not as wary. 43% think that the activity involves risk to personal information, while 52% do not see the activity as dangerous. However, this view does not necessarily stem from personal experience; within the subsection of online daters who consider the practice unsafe, equal numbers report positive and negative experiences using the services.
In a separate question, 6% of online daters say that dating websites do an “excellent” job of protecting people’s personal information, while 32% say they do a “good” job. Another 33% rate the services as “fair” and 12% say the websites do a “poor” job of protecting their information.
Looking at internet users who have not used online dating websites, concerns about personal information are more pronounced. Fully 69% of respondents in this group have privacy concerns, while 22% do not. Just 9% of internet users who have never gone to a dating website say they do not know whether or not online dating is dangerous.
Internet users and online daters both suspect that many people are dishonest about their marital status on dating websites.
While the online public and online daters alike recognize the potential of these social tools, they remain wary of those who take advantage of the anonymity afforded by the internet. A sizable majority of internet users agree that a lot of people who use online dating lie about their marital status; 57% agree that many people lie, while 18% disagree, and 25% say they do not know. Those with lower levels of income or education are more likely than the average internet user to suspect that people lie.
Just over half (52%) of online daters agree that a lot people are dishonest about being married, while 32% disagree, and 15% say they do not know. Single and looking internet users report similar views.
Those who do not have personal experience using the sites are no more suspect of people’s dishonesty than the average internet user.
Cite this publication: Mary Madden and Amanda Lenhart. “Online Dating.” Pew Research Center, Washington, D.C. (March 5, 2006) http://www.pewinternet.org/2006/03/05/online-dating/, accessed on July 23, 2014.
- This difference is not large enough to be statistically significant. ↩