Women Are Falling Out of Love With Dating Apps

New Morning Consult research shows that women’s views on — and experiences with — dating apps are much more negative than that of their male counterparts
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June 25, 2024 at 5:00 am UTC

Key Takeaways

    • Just 18% of women believe the creation of dating apps has positively impacted society, notably less than the share of men (30%), Gen Z adults (32%) or all U.S. adults (24%) who say the same. 
    • Though women use (and pay for) dating apps at lower rates than most other key demographic groups, they are among the most likely to report having poor experiences with — and ultimately deleting — them.
    • Women are also much less likely than men to say dating apps have improved their outlook toward relationships, and an overwhelming majority (79%) say they are not interested in using these platforms in the future.
    • It’s our latest research that suggests a vibe shift is occurring between the genders, pulling them further apart and into their respective camps — something all marketers should be mindful of when crafting messaging, regardless of industry.

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It feels impossible to escape negative discourse about dating apps these days. A once-booming digital frontier is now the subject of interrogation and ire from all angles, though many explanations offered for the perceived downfall of dating platforms have focused on Gen Z. The general assertion is that today’s young people are dating and having less sex than previous generations, so they must be driving disillusionment with the apps. 

While there is certainly some truth to this, new Morning Consult data shows that another consumer cohort — women — are actually far more unhappy with the online dating ecosystem than most of their peers, including Gen Zers and (especially) men.  

This difference in men’s and women’s experiences with dating apps is just the latest in a series of findings that, when considered together, suggest the battle of the sexes may be reigniting in a major way. Men are getting more conservative. Women are getting more liberal. Social media platforms are becoming increasingly gendered spaces. And all of this is causing public opinion toward both sexes to sour.

Given their goal of bringing people together, dating apps are somewhat of ground zero for the potential impacts of this rift. Recent developments in the space offer important learnings for brands in every category about what to do (or not do) when a broad swath of consumers become weary of a particular product or service — and each other.

Losing feelings 

The anti-dating app rhetoric really heated up post-pandemic, as consumers were craving in-person experiences and many of the dominant players surpassed more than a decade in existence. 

Today, Americans’ overall mood on the matter is largely one of indifference. Roughly 1 in 5 (24%) U.S. adults said they think dating apps have had a positive impact on society, which is equal to the share who said the opposite. Meanwhile, pluralities of all major demographics said online dating platforms have neither positively or negatively affected society.

Women are among the least likely to believe dating apps have a positive impact

Shares who said the creation of dating apps has had a … effect on society:
Morning Consult Logo
Survey conducted May 28-30, 2024 among a representative sample of 2,207 U.S. adults, with an unweighted margin of error of +/-2 percentage points.

However, the sentiment scales are tipped more negatively among women, just 18% of whom said dating apps do good. That’s 12 and 14 percentage points lower than the share of men and Gen Z adults, respectively, who said the same. Only baby boomers have a less sunny view on the broad influence of dating apps, but they have never been big users of the technology anyway. 

The share of women (23%) who said they have a “very” or “somewhat” favorable view of dating apps is also much smaller than that of their male peers (40%) and nearly every other consumer group. In contrast, women’s views on social media platforms are overwhelmingly favorable (68%) and comparable to that of all U.S. adults, men and Gen Z adults — indicating they don’t hold some broad anti-internet bias. Women do like being online, they just don’t like dating apps. So what gives?

A rise in popularity of dating-as-content is certainly part of the discussion. 

Crisis of confidence

“Dating diaries” have become a staple format for young women on TikTok, and there is ample anecdotal evidence to suggest that the platform “boosts” videos featuring bad date stories — wherein a (typically) male partner is vilified for any number of transgressions, ranging from minor to serious — far more than those depicting positive experiences. Meanwhile, on Facebook, “Are We Dating The Same Guy?” pages now exist for most major metropolitan areas, allowing women to inquire about the romantic history of potential dates with others nearby, often resulting in hurt feelings or, in more extreme cases, legal battles. (It is important to note that no large-scale male equivalents of these microtrends exist.)

Ultimately, women are getting exposed to a lot of negative narratives about men online, and that’s undoubtedly having an impact on their engagement with all kinds of dating, but especially that which is internet-based. Just 2 in 5 (41%) women report having ever used a dating app at any point in the past, and only 13% have used one within the last year. These figures are double-digits lower than that of most other demographics, including all U.S. adults, men and millennials.

Women are also among the least likely to have ever paid for dating apps and the most likely to have deleted an app after downloading it — findings that hold true for women across the entirety of the political spectrum, which feels important to highlight because so much of the recent dating discourse has been ideologically coded.

Women are most likely to delete dating apps

Shares* who said whether they have ever deleted dating apps after they began using them:
Morning Consult Logo
Survey conducted May 28-30, 2024 among a representative sample of 2,207 U.S. adults, including 1,035 respondents* who currently use or have used dating apps in the past, with unweighted margins of error of +/-2 and +/-3 percentage points, respectively.

Aside from those who reported finding partners, safety concerns, an unenjoyable user experience and not connecting with anyone were some of the top reasons cited by women who reported deleting a dating app.

Of course, women have always been at higher risk for relationship-based violence than men, a fact that is only coming into closer and closer focus as legislatures across the country continue to peel back reproductive rights. Amid this environment, many have started to prioritize friendship, hobbies and community-building over dating, often believing these endeavors to — at present — be a more worthwhile investment of time and resources.

No spark

This mood is once again reflected in Morning Consult data: When asked how dating apps have impacted their outlook toward different aspects of romantic relationships, women were notably less likely than all U.S. adults, Gen Z adults and men to report positive feelings. They were also less likely to say dating apps have helped them with certain social functions such as self-confidence.

Dating apps are most likely to drive positive views on relationships among men

Shares who said that dating apps have them feel more negatively or more positively toward…
Morning Consult Logo
“Neither more positive nor negative” and “Don’t know” responses not shown.
Survey conducted May 28-30, 2024 among a representative sample of 2,207 U.S. adults, with an unweighted margin of error of +/-2 percentage points.

And while online dating platforms can’t control many of the circumstances contributing to women’s mass disenchantment with romance, a string of recent marketing snafus have compounded these feelings, highlighting the evergreen importance of social listening with nuance. 

For example, The League, a dating app catering to high-achieving professionals, faced backlash to its “Be a GoalDigger” brand campaign launched in late 2023. Women criticized the promotion — which encouraged female users to “date someone with a 5-year plan that makes you want to ovulate” —  across several socail media platforms, calling it “cringy” and “ick-inducing.” 

A category-wide trend toward paywalling basic features is also regularly panned by female users. 

Brands outside of the dating space, meanwhile, are having better luck navigating today’s complicated dynamic with offerings that acknowledge the many differences in the lived experiences of all genders, but without mocking or disparaging any specific one. 

Lyft just expanded its Women Plus Connect feature, allowing women and nonbinary riders to match with women and nonbinary drivers nationwide. It originally introduced the initiative in select cities late last year after an investigation revealed that non-male rideshare drivers face frequent sexual harassment from customers, and has since been activated by more than 2 million users. 

Other brands have found success by spotlighting and uplifting women in ways relevant to the current cultural moment. After a year dominated by Barbie and Taylor Swift and general girlhood, Lulus and Amazon each produced major ad campaigns celebrating female friendships

Supporting women in sports  — whether as fans or players — is an increasingly popular strategy, too. 

The throughline present in these more successful initiatives is the brands’ ability to not only understand the contours of a prevailing discourse, but then to act quickly to validate — and in some instances, amplify — consumers’ concerns about it.

Let’s just be friends

There are some signs that the online dating industry may be getting serious about more comprehensively addressing women's attitudinal shifts on dating by branching out into offering services that aren’t explicitly tied to romance.

Bumble recently announced it is acquiring Geneva, a chat app designed to foster in-real-life friendships based on common interests. Tinder now lets users share details of their dates with family and friends directly from the app thanks to a new feature called “Share My Date.” The League introduced a “flakiness score” which tracks users’ communications habits and deprioritizes profiles that don’t respond to messages from matches. And for its part, Hinge created a $1 million fund to help young people find community in their areas.

An emphasis on facilitating highly engaged, in-person relationships (including platonic ones) could be a saving grace for the category, as vast majorities of most demographics report little to no desire to use dating apps to find romantic partners in the future. 

This apathy is once again especially prevalent among women, less than 5% of whom said they are “very interested” in using dating apps going forward. 

Most women say they don't want to use dating apps going forward

How interested respondents are in using dating apps in the future:
Morning Consult Logo
“Neither more positive nor negative” and “Don’t know” responses not shown.
Survey conducted May 28-30, 2024 among a representative sample of 2,207 U.S. adults, with an unweighted margin of error of +/-2 percentage points.

As fatigue with online interactions of all kinds grows, it's unclear if dating apps will ever again enjoy the kind of saliency they experienced during the late 2010s and early pandemic. Their functioning as just one piece of the broader meeting-people pie is a more likely outcome.

While digital channels remain supremely valuable, the online dating industry's present plight demonstrates that it’s okay, and even important, to go offline every once in a while and meet people where they want to meet each other: outside. 

No matter where brands choose to activate, however, they should always avoid reductive or gendered tropes that could alienate a broad swath of people, especially when those people are women — who are so often arbiters of consumption and important conversations.

A headshot photograph of Ellyn Briggs
Ellyn Briggs
Brands Analyst

Ellyn Briggs is a brands analyst on the Industry Intelligence team, where she conducts research, authors analyst notes and advises brand and marketing leaders on how to apply insights to make better business decisions. Prior to joining Morning Consult, Ellyn worked as a market researcher and brand strategist in both agency and in-house settings. She graduated from American University with a bachelor’s degree in finance. For speaking opportunities and booking requests, please email [email protected].

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