What are Americans looking for on dating apps?

Jamie BallardData Journalist
June 07, 2021, 1:00 PM UTC

Everyone is looking for love, and some are turning to dating apps and websites to help them find it.  

New data from YouGov finds that one in 11 Americans (9%) say they’re currently using dating apps, and another 28% say they have done so in the past. Millennials (17%) are far more likely than Gen X’ers (9%) and Baby Boomers (3%) to say they’re currently using dating apps/websites. Similarly, they’re also more likely to have used them in the past, even if they aren’t doing do currently (39% of Millennials vs 30% of Gen X and 17% of Baby Boomers).  

Among those Americans who say they are single and looking for a partner, about one-third (32%) say they’re currently using dating apps/websites.  

Why do people use dating apps?  

Among those who use or have used dating apps/websites, the most common reason for doing so is to find an exclusive romantic partner (54%). Women (59%) are more likely than men (50%) to cite this as a reason. 

About one-third (34%) say they’re on the apps because they want to have something fun/interesting to do, and 26% say they’re using the apps/websites to have casual sex. Men (36%) are more than twice as likely as women (14%) to say they’re using dating apps for casual sex.  

Women on dating apps/websites are more likely than men to say they’re there to see what the app is like (28% of women vs 18% of men), boost their self-esteem (23% vs 14%) or find someone for a friend (22% vs 14%).  

A relatively small number of Americans using dating apps (6%) say they are using them in hopes of cheating on their significant other. One in 11 (9%) men cite this as a reason for being on the apps, while fewer women (3%) say the same.  

Many dating app users have successfully started relationships by using the apps - but some are embarrassed about it  

Most who have ever used apps have entered into a committed relationship as a result (62%), including 28% who have kindled relationships on more than one occasion through the service. 

Although meeting a partner through a dating app or website is fairly common these days, some people still feel embarrassed about it.  

Among dating app users who have ever been in a relationship that started via app, 60% have felt embarrassed to tell people that they met their partner this way. Of these, 29% say they still would be embarrassed to share this information, while 31% say they would not be.  Two in five (38%) say they haven’t felt embarrassed to share this information.  

Women are more likely than men to say they would prefer to meet someone offline  

Although dating apps have their benefits – like convenience and the ability to converse before going on a date – many Americans would still prefer to meet someone offline.  
Close to half (47%) of Americans say that if they were single and dating, they would prefer to meet a romantic partner without using a dating app or website. Just 12% state a preference for meeting someone through a dating app, and 25% say they have no preference.  

Among those who have used or are using dating apps, there is more interest in meeting through a dating app or website. One-quarter (26%) say they would prefer to meet this way, although far more (41%) say they’d like to meet someone without using an app. Women who have experience on the dating apps/websites (47%) are more likely than men (35%) who have used the apps to say they’d prefer to meet through other means.  

See full results here

Related: A quarter of Americans are interested in having an open relationship

Methodology: Total sample size was 1,260 US adults ages 18+, including 462 who have ever used dating apps. Fieldwork was undertaken between May 27 – 28, 2021. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of US respondents ages 18+.  

Image: Gender Spectrum Collection  

RealTime Research

The YouGov Omnibus is the perfect vehicle to quickly and cost-effectively find out people’s opinions, attitudes and behaviours. Omnibus is a shared cost, multi-client approach to survey research.
View all publications