The Rise of Online Dating


How Couples Meet and Stay Together 2017 (HCMST2017) is a survey carried out by Stanford University, featuring a fresh set of 3,510 survey respondents. The dataset charts a significant shift in the way couples meet each other over time.

Couples used to meet in real life, through family, church, school, etc., but but now more and more people are “matching” online. As we'll see below, the number of couples meeting online has increased exponentially since the late 1990s. Nowadays, you’re much more likely to meet your next partner online rather than through any other social channel. Meeting through friends or at bars & restaurants remains popular.

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How Couples Meet

  • Family and Friends were the most popular social channels to meet one's other half up until the turn of the century.
  • Since then, online dating has taken over and, in 2017, nearly 40% of respondents met their partner online.
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Political Affiliations


Respondents were asked about their political leanings & given the following seven options:

  • Strong Republican
  • Not Strong Republican
  • Leans Republican
  • Undecided/Independent/Other
  • Leans Democrat
  • Not Strong Democrat
  • Strong Democrat

Let's see if the daing habits differ between right and left.

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  • There have benn no major noticeable differences in dating patterns between those identifying Republican or Democrat.
  • The increase in online dating among those identifying as right-leaning has been greater.

Political Affiliation


Survey respondents were also asked about how frequently they have sex.

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Sexual Orientation


Respondents were asked about their sexual orientation & given the following six options:

  • Refused
  • heterosexual or straight
  • gay
  • lesbian
  • bisexual
  • Something else

The authors do note that self-identified Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual respondents were oversampled.

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Data Source: Rosenfeld, Michael J., Reuben J. Thomas, and Sonia Hausen. 2019 How Couples Meet and Stay Together 2017 fresh sample. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Libraries.

You can find the dataset and data dictionary here.