New Harris Poll Survey Finds America's Singles Are Happy, Fulfilled, and Seeking Dates, Not Mates

New survey from Harris Poll Thought Leadership Practice finds most single people enjoy time and freedom for personal growth, friendships

NEW YORK, Feb. 13, 2023 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Rom-coms, Hallmark movies and even Valentine's cards may need a rewrite: Most single people say they don't need a mate for their life story to have a happy ending. That's according to "Singles in America Survey," the latest research from The Harris Poll, Thought Leadership Practice, released today.  

Among other findings: Whether to expect a man to pick up the check on Valentine's Day; what Americans have in common with penguins, dogs and cats; what singles prefer: cleaning toilets or going on online dates.

The poll was conducted in late January 2023 using a nationally representative sample of 2,004 U.S. adults. Its central finding is that most single people actually like being single - they're happy to be pursuing their own passions, they feel more in control of their finances, and they're tired of society and media saying otherwise. 

"Our perceptions of single Americans need to be reexamined," says Libby Rodney, futurist and chief strategy officer at The Harris Poll. "We need to shift the dialogue from something society needs to fix, like in your standard rom-com, to something many people are finding fulfilling and are doing by choice."

Census data shows that roughly half of Americans are single. The Harris Poll research found that 56% of single respondents don't want to change that status, saying that the statement "I am not looking for a relationship" best describes them. That result is strong across generations, selected by 35% of Gen Z and 30% of Boomer respondents. 

Why do they feel that way? The Harris Poll survey suggests that singles are happier and more fulfilled. Nearly half of American singles (48%) agreed that "Singlehood is the most meaningful, authentic and fulfilling way of life." And when asked for details, they provided many reasons why: 

  • Having more time to pursue my interests and passions (cited by 86% of singles)
  • Focusing more on my personal growth (84%)
  • Having more time and energy to devote to friendships (82%)
  • Not worrying about a partner's debt or financial obligations (81%)
  • Having more time to grow and develop my career (79%)

Single life fosters financial independence - but costs more

Indeed, financial and career issues played a large role in singles' preferences. American singles strongly agreed that flying solo helps them financially - but that government policies also hurt them. 

Seven out of 10 (71%) singles agreed "being single taught me how to work with my money really well," and nearly as many (68%) say that they "feel financially empowered and more in control by being single." Six out of 10 (59%) say they don't plan to ever merge their finances with a partner.

However, people recognize that the single life can be more expensive - and they're not happy about it. Strong majorities of singles "dislike paying more taxes than married couples" (74%) and "paying more for healthcare and social benefits than married couples" (68%). 

And all Americans, single and in relationships, see that as a problem: Three-quarters (76%) recognize that it "can be more affordable to be in a relationship" because of cost-sharing and tax policies, and just as many (79%) say the government should "offer more tax breaks for single people."

That may be a sign of a growing realization by all Americans, both single and those in relationships, that the single life can be a rewarding one - and that single life gets a raw deal from the media. 

  • Eight in 10 Americans (79%) say "You don't need to get married to have a happy and fulfilling life."
  • Two-thirds (68%) say they believe "the stigma of being single is gradually diminishing."
  • Two-thirds (68%) also say "I'm tired of media and advertising showing a false idealistic image that being in a relationship is the only way to live a happy life." 

Not only are most singles uninterested in finding a partner, they're being more cost-conscious about dating, saying they've made or would be open to making changes due to rising inflation:

  • 69%: choosing an activity, like going for a hike, over going out for dinner or drinks
  • 55%: hosting a first date at home 
  • 50%: cutting back or eliminating gift-giving
  • 50%: filtering their potential dates to "only financially secure candidates"

While 44% say they've tried or would be willing to go on a virtual date in order to reduce expenses, many singles would do almost anything other than an online date:

  • 44% of Gen Z "would rather clean the toilet than go another online date"
  • 30% of Gen Z "would rather walk across hot coals than go on another online date"
  • 22% of Millennials "would rather have their tooth pulled than go on another online date."

For Gen Z and Millennial singles wondering if they need to buy a gift for a Valentine's Day date, the poll results offer guidance on how to tell if you're in a relationship. For example, both groups say attending a party together is just dating, while attending a family holiday event is being in a relationship. 

But the groups differ on the significance of "middle ground" activities: For Gen Z, meeting friends, parents, or posting a couple's picture on social media is just dating - but to Millennials, all of those are relationship territory.   

Preferred relationship style varies by generation

Finally, the poll examines just what types of relationships singles may seek and found generational differences there as well. About half of all people see themselves as penguins - one mate for life. Roughly equal shares saw themselves as birds (19% want a partner but are free to explore) and dogs (16% want to experience as many partners as possible), while 11% saw themselves as cats, indifferent to partners, who may come and go.

Some differences, as expected, appear age-related - two-thirds (66%) of Boomers choose "penguin" (one mate for life), compared to 40% of Gen Z. Others, though, are more surprising: One in five Gen Zs went with "cat" (indifferent, allow partners to come and go), almost twice as many as the other four groups (9% to 11%). And one in four Millennials (24%) prefers a dog's life, wanting to experience as many partners as possible, far more often than the other groups (9% to 18%). 

One possible reason: it's just hard to find the right person. Nearly eight in 10 of all respondents said that "finding the right partner is harder than finding the right job."

Rodney says single people are showing us the need to rethink how society sees and values personal relationships.

"It's worth noting that being single isn't void of anything," she said. "There is a spectrum of deep and meaningful relationships single people are involved in, and it's important to recognize the richness of their relationship choices."

To learn more about The Harris Poll for Thought Leadership and the Singles in America poll, visit this link

About the Singles in America Survey

This survey was conducted online within the U.S. by The Harris Poll from Jan. 20 to 22, 2023, among a nationally representative sample of 2,004 U.S. adults. This research includes 700 singles and 1,262 of those who are not, as well as 181 Gen Z (ages 18-25), 611 Millennials (ages 26-41), 522 Gen X (ages 42-57), and 655 Boomers (ages 58 and older).

About Harris Poll Thought Leadership Practice

Building on 50+ years of experience pulsing societal opinion, we design research that is credible, creative, and culturally relevant. Our practice drives thought leadership and unearths trends for today's biggest brands. We are focused on helping our clients get ahead of what's next.

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Madeleine Moench

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