Finding Love Online

Love on the Web AP

This Valentine's season finds quite a few Americans hoping that Cupid's arrow can fly through cyberspace. Internet dating is now used by a fair number of people, and young, single Internet users are particularly likely to embrace this new way of meeting. Many other Americans are abuzz with stories about online matchmaking: though most have not used an Internet dating service themselves, a sizeable number know someone who has. However, a great many Americans of all ages remain skeptical that cyberspace is a good, safe way to meet people.

Over one-quarter of Americans say they have heard a lot about Internet dating. Those aged 18 to 29 have heard the most about it, with 48% of them saying they have seen or heard a lot about it.

HOW MUCH HAVE YOU SEEN OR HEARD ABOUT INTERNET DATING?

A lot:

Total
27%
18-29
48%
30-44
29%
45-64
20%
65+
12%

Some:

Total
27%
18-29
29%
30-44
27%
45-64
26%
65+
27%

Little/Not Much:

Total
45%
18-29
24%
30-44
42%
45-64
53%
65+
61%

Visits to dating websites are most common among the younger, unmarried net users. Overall, 15% of all Americans who have Internet access have visited a web site where single adults meet, but 28% of all unmarried people with Internet access have done so. Of people aged 18 to 29 who are online, 27% of them say they have at least visited such a site, compared to just 6% of those between 45 and 64 who have.

While many single web surfers are perhaps just flirting with the idea of online dating, some have taken the plunge and signed up for a dating service. Among unmarried people who have Internet access, 10% say they have signed up for an Internet-based dating service at some point.

SUBSCRIBE TO INTERNET DATING SERVICE?
(Among unmarried Internet users)

Yes, I have
5%
I have & someone I know has
5%
I don't but someone I know has
20%
No, I don't & no one I know does
70%

This includes 5% who say they have done it and another 5% who say that not only have they signed up, but they know someone else who has, too. Another 20% know someone who has, though they have not done so themselves.

Some have even brought their cyber meetings into the real world. 7% of unmarried Internet users say they have gone on a date with someone they met online. And when someone does go on such a date, it seems to be quite a conversation topic among their friends: 42% of unmarried net users say that they know someone who has gone on a date that began online.

GONE ON AN INTERNET DATE?
Among unmarried Internet users)

Yes, I have
6%
Yes, I have & someone I know has
1%
Someone I know has
42%
No, not me nor anyone I know
51%

Online dating certainly hasn't won over everyone yet. Many Americans - including the young and single - are still somewhat skeptical about meeting single adults online. Overall, 67% of Americans with Internet access do not think the online world provides a good way to meet people. 24% say it does. Men are slightly more likely to be accepting of it: by 27% to 21%, more men than women with Internet access think cyberspace is a good place for single adults to meet.

Not surprisingly, unmarried Internet users are much more likely than their married counterparts to think it is a good way to meet, though a majority of them are still leery of it.

IS THE INTERNET A GOOD WAY FOR SINGLES TO MEET?
(Among all Internet users)

Yes:

Total
24%
Unmarried
33%
Married
17%

No:

Total
67%
Unmarried
60%
Married
72%


Most people who have been on an Internet date, or who know someone who has, cannot cite any bad experiences stemming from the date. However, 39% of unmarried Internet who have been on a date that originated online, or who know someone who has, report that they and/or someone they know has indeed had a bad experience.

INTERNET DATE - HAD A BAD EXPERIENCE?
(Among unmarried Internet users who have been on an Internet date
and/or know someone who has)

Yes, I have
3%
Someone I know has
34%
I have & someone I know has
2%
No, I haven't & no one I know has
55%

Bad dates appear to also be big topics of conversation: only 5% say they themselves have what they would call a bad experience, but 34% say they have heard about one from one of their personal friends.

When it comes to safety, 58% of Internet users think Internet dating is about as safe or safer than meeting people in bars or nightclubs (52% say it is as safe, 6% say it is safer.) A sizeable number, 38%, think is less safe. But women who use the net are more likely than men to think online dating is not as safe.

IS ONLINE DATING AS SAFE OR SAFER THAN BARS/NIGHTCLUBS?
(Among all Internet users)

Yes:

Total
58%
Men
62%
Women
55%

No:

Total
38%
Men
33%
Women
42%


So, do people who meet online really connect? Maybe, or maybe not, but a few currently married Internet users say they walked down the aisle with someone they met online, and 16% of users report that they've known people who did.

MARRIED FROM INTERNET MEETING?
(Among all Internet users)

I did
1%
Someone I know did
16%
No, I didn't & don't know anyone
82%



This poll was conducted among a nationwide random sample of 831 adults, interviewed by telephone February 5-6, 2003. The error due to sampling for results based on the entire sample could be plus or minus three percentage points. Sampling error for the subgroup all Internet users may be plus or minus four points; for the subgroup unmarried Internet users error may be plus or minus seven points.

For detailed information on how CBS News conducts public opinion surveys, click here.

  • Bootie Cosgrove-Mather

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