Madison McVeigh/CityLab

Love, actually, is not everywhere this Valentine’s Day, according to new online dating data. At least not the walks-on-the-beach, unrequited kind.


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Looking for love this Valentine’s Day? Apparently, America left its heart in San Francisco.

Residents of the Bay Area may be among the most romantic in the country, according to data from the online dating site OkCupid. That site matches singles based on a wide range of questions about life, love, and other topics. And in data provided to CityLab about nine major American cities with large OkCupid markets, the San Francisco metro area’s users were most likely to call themselves romantics, to embrace stereotypically romantic activities like long walks on the beach, and even to wait longer before exchanging cell phone numbers with their dates.

In contrast, residents of major metro areas in the eastern U.S. tend to score lower on OkCupid’s measures of romance. The least romantic big city on the list? Washington, D.C., where singles have apparently been infected with the cynicism that pervades modern politics.

For example, singles on OkCupid were asked how they’d classify “hopeless, unrequited love”: romantic, foolish, or creepy. A full 65 percent of San Franciscans chose “romantic,” higher than any other major city analyzed by OkCupid. Around 46 to 48 percent of singles from New York City and Chicago chose the same answer—and just 23 percent of D.C.-area daters. Washington singles were also twice as likely as any other city to call unrequited love “creepy.”

Which major cities think unrequited love is romantic? San Francisco's at the top, D.C. at the bottom.

Similarly, San Franciscans are the most likely to call themselves romantic, and D.C. residents the least.

Majorities of daters in major U.S. cities describe themselves as romantic.

Though San Francisco tops these lists, other western U.S. cities aren’t far behind. Daters from Austin, Denver, and Los Angeles mention the words “romance” and “romantic” twice as often as other cities on their profiles, and also tend to score highly on OkCupid’s questions about romance.

Melissa Hobley, OkCupid’s chief marketing officer, said weather may have something to do with that. Most of the more romantic cities also tend to have better winter weather.

“In the winter, in these months, what you can do in terms of being romantic, getting out of the house or your tiny apartment in Williamsburg, your options are a lot more limited,” Hobley said. “On the West Coast, you can still go for a hike, you can still get out.”

And yes, that includes long walks on the beach—something easy to do in San Francisco or Los Angeles. Still, even cold, inland cities like Chicago or Minneapolis tend to find long walks on the beach charming, at least in theory. The exception, again, is Washington, D.C.

Singles in Washington, D.C. are most likely to call "long walks on the beach" cheesy rather than romantic.

OkCupid’s research has previously found that politics is playing an increasingly large role in American dating, with political terms appearing more and more often on dating profiles. So it’s perhaps unsurprising that the country’s political capital isn’t feeling the love in this data, captured entirely since President Donald Trump’s inauguration.

“There’s so much going on in D.C., and it’s so contentious,” Hobley said. “It’s hard to be romantic when you’re in a city that’s based on the industry of politics and it’s such a divisive and hostile time.”

D.C.’s contentious dating scene has even made the news, as with a 2018 Politico story about how Trump administration officials are having a hard time finding love.

Another factor in the romantic nature of western cities could be demographics. The cities that score most highly on OkCupid’s measures of romanticism also tend to be cities where the population of young singles is disproportionately male. Hobley doesn’t think that’s a coincidence.

“San Francisco, for example, is a male-dominated city,” she said. “They’re aware of that, and so the guys have to work a little bit harder—maybe make the dinner reservation, or come up with an interesting date, or come up with an interesting first message. You have to be more interesting because there’s less women.”

OkCupid also found that romanticism is correlated with more than just geography. People who say they're the most romantic person they know, for example, are more than four times more likely to prefer dogs to cats. They're 20 percent more likely to say astrological sign is important in a match, and 15 percent more likely to say jealousy is healthy in a relationship.

Have something to say about the romanticism of a city that didn’t make the list? Tell us in the comments.

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