As the pandemic enters its third year, most U.S. adults who are single and looking for a relationship or dates say dating during the coronavirus outbreak is harder than it was before. Seven-in-ten say their dating lives are not going well, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted in February of this year.
Pew Research Center conducted this study to learn more about single Americans’ experiences with dating during the coronavirus outbreak, and how their attitudes toward dating have changed since before the pandemic.
These questions were part of a larger survey of 9,388 U.S. adults that was conducted Feb. 7-13, 2022. This analysis is based on the 2,616 U.S. adults who told us they are not currently married, living with a partner, or in a committed relationship. Everyone who took part is a member of the Center’s American Trends Panel (ATP), an online survey panel that is recruited through national, random sampling of residential addresses. This way nearly all U.S. adults have a chance of selection. The survey is weighted to be representative of the U.S. adult population by gender, race, ethnicity, partisan affiliation, education and other categories. Read more about the ATP’s methodology.
References to “daters” or those who are “single and looking” refer to single adults who have indicated that they are looking for a committed romantic relationship only, casual dates only, or either a committed romantic relationship or casual dates. “Non-daters” are single adults who have indicated that they are not currently looking for a relationship or dates.
Daters were already unhappy with their dating lives before the pandemic. In 2019, two-thirds said their dating lives were not going well, and three-quarters said it was difficult for them to find people to date.
Still, a majority of single-and-looking adults (63%) – including similar shares of men and women – say dating has gotten even harder during the pandemic, while 32% say it has stayed about the same and just 3% say it has gotten easier. Daters younger than 30 are much more likely than those ages 30 and older to say dating is harder now (71% vs. 58%).
A majority of single Americans overall are off the dating market – 56% say they are not currently looking for a relationship or casual dates, up slightly from 50% in 2019. Among the 44% who are currently looking, 32% say they are looking only for a committed relationship, 16% are looking only for casual dates, and about half are open to either a relationship or dates.
For the most part, the pandemic hasn’t changed what single adults are looking for: About six-in-ten single adults (59%) say they are no more or less interested in finding a committed relationship now than they were before the coronavirus outbreak began (an additional 20% say the question doesn’t apply to them). The remaining singles are about evenly split between saying it has made them more interested and saying it has made them less interested in finding a committed relationship.
Large shares of singles across all major demographic groups say the pandemic has not changed their interest in a relationship, but there are some differences. Single adults younger than 30 are by far the most likely to say the COVID-19 pandemic has made them more interested in finding a committed relationship – about 22% say this, compared with about one-in-ten or fewer among older age groups. Men are also more likely than women to say they are now more interested in a committed relationship (15% vs. 8%).
For many daters, COVID-19 vaccination status isn’t important, but about four-in-ten say they would only go out with someone who was vaccinated
A majority of daters (56%) say it wouldn’t matter to them whether or not someone was vaccinated against COVID-19 when deciding whether to go on a date with them, but a sizable minority (41%) say they would only consider going out with someone who is vaccinated. Just 2% say they would only go on a date with someone who is not vaccinated against COVID-19.
These views don’t vary much across demographic groups, but there is a deep divide by political party. Democrats and those who lean to the Democratic Party are about four times as likely as Republicans and GOP leaners to say they would only go out with someone who was vaccinated. For their part, Republican daters are far more likely than Democratic daters to say it wouldn’t matter whether someone is vaccinated against COVID-19 when deciding whether to go on a date with them (81% vs. 42%). Very small shares of partisans on both sides say they would only go out with someone who is not vaccinated.
There is also a difference by educational attainment, though it is less pronounced than the party divide. About half of daters with a bachelor’s degree or more education (49%) say they would only go out with a vaccinated person, compared with 38% of those with some college education or less. Meanwhile, those with some college education or less are more likely than those with more education to say it wouldn’t matter to them if someone is vaccinated against COVID-19 (59% vs. 48%).
About three-in-ten single adults who are not looking for a relationship or dates say COVID-19 concerns are at least a minor reason they are not dating
Among single adults who are not looking for a relationship or dates right now, 28% say one reason for not dating is that they are concerned about being exposed to the coronavirus. This includes 10% who say this is a major reason for not dating. Women are about twice as likely as men to say this is a major reason (13% vs. 6%). Democrats are also a lot more likely than Republicans to give this as a major reason (14% vs. 6%). An additional 23% of Democrats say concerns about the pandemic are a minor reason why they are not currently dating.
Concerns about COVID-19 are low on the list of reasons for not dating, relative to other reasons. More cite the fact that they just like being single or have more important priorities than provide any other reason why they are not dating, the same as in 2019. Being too busy, feeling like no one would be interested in dating them, and feeling like they are too old to date are also all reasons that single non-daters give more often than concerns about COVID-19 exposure.