Harris Poll Trains Cupid’s Arrow on Valentine’s Day Attitudes

Heart shaped box of chocolate truffles with red roses

New York, N.Y. – February 12, 2015 – Depending on who you’re talking to at the time, it could be that you’ve heard February 14th is a great time of year to make that special someone understand just how much they mean to you… or that it’s an overly merchandized cog in an insidious corporate machine bent on monetizing as many days of the year as possible. While certainly many opinions fall between these two extremes, those tend to be the most broadly expressed views on Valentine’s Day. Findings from a recent Harris Poll certainly show a data point or two for each camp to call their own. On the one hand, roughly half of Americans (48%) look at Valentine’s Day as an opportunity to communicate more with their significant other. On the other hand, about two-thirds each say the consumerism of the holiday has ruined the romance (66%) and view the time-honored tradition of Valentine’s Day marriage proposals as cliché (68%).

But of course, the holiday might not be worth of such commercializing in the first place if people weren’t celebrating it. So what are Americans getting each other? What’s their ideal romantic dinner? And in what ways might they consider technologically supplementing their Valentine’s Day plans?

These are some of the results of The Harris Poll® of 2,232 U.S. adults surveyed online between January 14 and 19, 2015.

Giving and getting

Attitudes aside, what are people actually shopping for this Valentine’s Day? And what do they actually want? In some areas women and men appear to be on the same page, while in others they seem to be missing one another. Flowers come in as the No. 1 gift women would most like to receive for Valentine’s Day, and men appear up to the task as it is also the No. 1 gift they’re likely to give. Women are similarly on target, as candy is the top mention among both gifts they’re likely to give and gifts men would like to receive. As the list moves on though, men and women alike may veer off course a bit.

  • Candy ranks second as the gift men are most likely to give, whereas jewelry and a day of pampering tie for the No. 2 spot among gifts women would like to receive (these ranked third and fourth, respectively, among gifts men are likely to give). Where does Candy actually rank among women’s preferences? In the No. 4 spot.
  • Women are a bit more on target. Their second likeliest gift, breakfast in bed, ranks as men’s third most wanted; the inverse is true for a day of pampering, which ranks as the third most likely gift for women to give but as men’s second most desired present.

Ranking notwithstanding, roughly a third of Americans (34%) say they’re likely to purchase candy this year as Valentine’s Day gifts while a quarter (25%) are likely to purchase flowers. Just under two in ten (17%) are likely to purchase wine or spirits, while just over one in ten (12%) anticipate buying jewelry, and 5% say they’re likely to purchase lingerie.

But when Americans look back on the best and worst presents they’ve received on Valentine’s Day, some patterns emerge, each with a lesson for those paying attention:

  • Lesson 1 – Read the room. Many of the open ended worst gift responses stem from a fundamental failure to take the recipient into account. Cases in point include Candy while dieting, Earrings when I don’t have pierced ears, A shirt in my least favorite color, Flowers I was allergic to, and Caramels – I hate them.
  • Lesson 2 – Execution counts. Not-so-fresh (or even missing!) flowers, cheap or low quality candy and internet greeting cards all appeared among the least-loved gifts. On the other hand, there are some telltale words among the favorites which should give you an idea of how to set your gift apart. Fancy chocolates. My favorite candy. And above all, a little elbow grease can go a long way. Whether in relation to cards, meals, or even short erotic novels, the words homemade and handmade made frequent appearances on the best-of list.
  • Lesson 3 – Sometimes being present is present enough. Being distant from a loved one was another recurring theme on the least-faves list, whether due to business travel, military deployment, or more emotional forms of distance, including inebriated partners or those forgetting the holiday entirely. On the other end of the spectrum, surprise visits from loved ones made several Americans’ favorite gift lists, as did simply being with a loved one; some examples of statements along these lines include My partner’s undivided attention and Wake up next to her.

Lessons and learnings aside, we’d be remiss to overlook the volume of responses on both the best and worst lists revolving around more… intimate gifts (or lack thereof, in the case of the worst gifts list).

Table for two

A romantic meal is a longtime Valentine’s Day staple, but there’s some dissent as to what makes a meal romantic. When presented with several options and asked which they would consider to be the most romantic dinner option for Valentine’s Day, nearly even percentages opt for the togetherness of preparing a home-cooked meal together (23%) and the indulgence of dinner in an expensive restaurant (22%). Fifteen percent point to dinner at an inexpensive restaurant, while roughly one in ten each select either preparing a home-cooked meal for their date (10%) or having a home-cooked meal prepared for them by a date (9%).

  • Dinner at an expensive restaurant is the top choice among men (27% vs. 18% among women), while preparing a home-cooked meal together is the top selection among women (24% vs. 21% among men).
Bridging the digital distance

And what of the role of electronics in bringing couples closer together? When asked how they would utilize electronics for a romantic long-distance Valentine’s Day, nearly half indicate talking on the phone as an option (47%), while three in ten Americans (29%) and nearly half of Millennials (46%) point to video-chatting. 14% of U.S. adults and a fourth of Millennials (26%) indicate they’d turn to sexting, while similar percentages (13% Americans, 23% Millennials) indicate they’d send each other selfies. Roughly one in ten Americans and nearly two in ten Millennials indicate they’d virtually watch a movie together (11% Americans, 18% Millennials) and virtually enjoy eating dinner together (10% and 17%, respectively).

 

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TABLE 1

AGREEMENT WITH VALENTINE’S DAY STATEMENT

[Summary of Somewhat/Strongly Agree and Somewhat/Strongly Disagree Ratings]

by Generation, Gender & Children in HH

The next few questions are about Valentine’s Day. How much do you agree or disagree with the following statements?

Base: U.S. Adults

2013 Total

2015 Total

Generation

Gender

Children in hh

Millennials (18-37)

Gen Xers (38-49)

Baby Boomers (50-68)

Matures (69+)

Males

Females

Yes

No

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

Valentine’s Day marriage proposals are cliche.

na

68

73

71

64

62

69

68

73

66

na

25

22

23

28

25

22

27

24

25

The consumerism surrounding Valentine’s Day has ruined the romance.

na

66

67

68

66

61

64

68

68

65

na

27

26

28

26

30

27

27

27

27

I look at Valentine’s Day as an opportunity to communicate more with my significant other.

50

48

66

54

39

15

53

45

67

40

31

35

27

41

39

32

31

39

34

35

I will probably have sex on Valentine’s Day.

49

49

57

48

43

40

53

44

57

44

34

34

22

34

41

44

31

36

24

39

I expect to receive gifts on Valentine’s Day.

na

33

45

34

26

11

28

36

47

26

na

56

46

58

60

68

59

53

49

59

Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding

na = not asked in previous waves


TABLE 2

GIFT WOULD MOST LIKE TO RECEIVE FOR VALENTINE’S DAY

by Generation, Gender & Children in HH

Thinking about gifts, among the items below, what would you most like to receive for Valentine’s Day?

Base: U.S. Adults

2013 Total

2015 Total

Generation

Gender

Children in hh

Millennials (18-37)

Gen Xers (38-49)

Baby Boomers (50-68)

Matures (69+)

Males

Females

Yes

No

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

Candy

9

13

15

10

13

9

15

10

12

12

Day of pampering, i.e. massages, steam or sauna, etc.

10

11

14

14

9

4

9

13

15

9

Flowers

9

10

11

9

10

9

3

16

11

9

Jewelry

9

9

12

10

6

2

3

13

16

5

House cleaner for one month

7

5

4

6

4

8

2

7

3

6

Breakfast in bed

5

5

7

7

3

2

6

4

6

4

Coupon book of IOUs

4

3

3

4

3

 

4

2

3

3

Lingerie

1

2

3

2

1

1

2

2

2

2

Day off of parenting duties

2

1

3

2

*

*

1

2

4

*

None of these

44

42

29

37

51

63

55

30

27

49

Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding; * indicates <0.5%; — indicates 0%.


TABLE 3

GIFT MOST LIKELY TO GIVE FOR VALENTINE’S DAY

by Generation, Gender & Children in HH

Thinking about gifts, among the items below, what are you most likely to give for Valentine’s Day?

Base: U.S. Adults

2013 Total

2015 Total

Generation

Gender

Children in hh

Millennials (18-37)

Gen Xers (38-49)

Baby Boomers (50-68)

Matures (69+)

Males

Females

Yes

No

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

Candy

14

18

18

19

19

16

14

22

21

16

Flowers

14

15

14

14

16

14

26

4

13

16

Jewelry

7

7

12

6

4

4

12

3

12

5

Day of pampering, i.e. massages, steam or sauna, etc.

6

6

8

7

4

1

6

5

6

6

Breakfast in bed

5

5

8

8

3

2

4

7

10

3

Coupon book of IOUs

3

2

5

2

1

2

3

5

1

Lingerie

2

2

4

1

2

2

2

3

2

Day off of parenting duties

1

1

2

1

1

1

1

2

4

House cleaner for one month

*

*

 

1

*

*

*

*

1

*

None of these

48

43

29

42

51

62

33

51

26

51

Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding; * indicates <0.5%; – indicates 0%.

 

TABLE 4

GIFT MOST LIKE TO GIVE/RECEIVE COMPARISON BY GENDER

Thinking about gifts, among the items below, what are you most likely to give for Valentine’s Day?

Thinking about gifts, among the items below, what would you most like to receive for Valentine’s Day?

Base: U.S. Adults


Men – most likely to give

Women – would most like to receive

 

 

Women – most likely to give

Men – would most like to receive

% (rank)

% (rank)

% (rank)

% (rank)

Flowers

26 (1)

16 (1)

Candy

22 (1)

15 (1)

Candy

14 (2)

10 (4)

Breakfast in bed

7 (2)

6 (3)

Jewelry

12 (3)

13 (2) – tie

Day of pampering

5 (3)

9 (2)

Day of pampering

6 (4)

13 (2) – tie

Flowers

4 (4)

3 (5) – tie

Breakfast in bed

4 (5)

4 (6)

Jewelry/Coupon book of IOUs

3 (5) – tie

3 (5) – tie / 4 (4)

None of these

33

30

None of these

51

55

 

TABLE 5

ITEMS LIKELY TO PURCHASE THIS YEAR AS VALENTINE’S DAY GIFTS

by Generation, Gender & Children in HH

Which of the following items are you likely to purchase this year as Valentine’s Day gifts?

Base: U.S. Adults

2013 Total

2015 Total

Generation

Gender

Children in hh

Millennials (18-37)

Gen Xers (38-49)

Baby Boomers (50-68)

Matures (69+)

Males

Females

Yes

No

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

Candy

34

34

46

34

28

19

34

35

47

28

Flowers

25

25

32

23

21

18

40

10

29

23

Wine or spirits

na

17

21

21

14

4

15

18

22

14

Jewelry

11

12

18

14

8

4

18

7

21

8

Lingerie

na

5

9

5

3

*

6

4

10

3

None of these

49

44

32

40

51

65

36

51

27

52

Note: Multiple responses allowed; * indicates <0.5%; – indicates 0%.

na = not asked in previous waves

 

TABLE 6

WILL HAVE SOMEONE TO SPEND VALENTIN’E DAY WITH

by Generation, Gender & Children in HH

Will you have someone to spend this Valentine’s Day with?

Base: U.S. Adults

2015 Total

Generation

Gender

Children in hh

Millennials (18-37)

Gen Xers (38-49)

Baby Boomers (50-68)

Matures (69+)

Males

Females

Yes

No

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

Yes (NET)

73

73

78

73

64

71

74

83

68

Yes, I definitely will

62

58

66

64

60

60

64

69

59

It is likely that I will

11

15

12

9

3

12

10

14

9

No (NET)

27

27

22

27

36

29

26

17

32

It is likely that I won’t

9

11

8

6

12

9

9

8

9

No, I definitely won’t

19

16

15

21

25

20

17

9

23

Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding; * indicates <0.5%; – indicates 0%.

na = not asked in previous waves


TABLE 7

MOST ROMANTIC DINNER OPTION FOR VALENTINE’S DAY

by Generation, Gender & Children in HH

What would you consider to be the most romantic dinner option for Valentine’s Day?

Base: U.S. Adults

2015 Total

Generation

Gender

Children in hh

Millennials (18-37)

Gen Xers (38-49)

Baby Boomers (50-68)

Matures (69+)

Males

Females

Yes

No

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

Preparing a home-cooked meal together

23

27

23

20

14

21

24

22

23

Dinner in an expensive restaurant

22

22

20

23

27

27

18

24

22

Dinner in an inexpensive restaurant

15

8

13

19

25

12

17

13

16

Preparing a home-cooked meal for my date

10

12

11

9

3

14

6

10

10

My date preparing a home-cooked meal for me

9

11

9

7

9

5

13

10

8

Eating a picnic dinner

6

8

7

4

3

5

7

8

5

Ordering in from a local restaurant

5

6

5

6

3

5

6

7

5

Other

10

7

11

12

16

10

10

7

12

Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding; * indicates <0.5%; – indicates 0%.

 

TABLE 8

HOW WOULD UTILIZE ELECTRONICS FOR A ROMANTIC LONG-DISTANCE VALENTINE’S DAY

by Generation, Gender & Children in HH

How would you utilize electronics for a romantic long-distance Valentine’s Day?

Base: U.S. Adults

2015 Total

Generation

Gender

Children in hh

Millennials (18-37)

Gen Xers (38-49)

Baby Boomers (50-68)

Matures (69+)

Males

Females

Yes

No

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

Talking on the phone

47

50

48

46

43

47

48

48

47

Video-chatting

29

46

38

14

7

27

31

41

23

Sexting

14

26

16

5

1

17

12

22

10

Sending each other selfies

13

23

17

4

1

13

14

22

9

Virtually watching a movie together

11

18

11

8

4

11

12

15

9

Virtually eating dinner together

10

17

9

5

9

9

12

13

9

Other

30

20

24

39

43

30

30

21

34

Note: Multiple responses allowed; * indicates <0.5%; – indicates 0%.


Methodology

This Harris Poll was conducted online, in English, within the United States between January 14 and 20, 2015 among 2,232 adults (aged 18 and over). Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online.

All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to multiple sources of error which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments. Therefore, The Harris Poll avoids the words margin of error as they are misleading. All that can be calculated are different possible sampling errors with different probabilities for pure, unweighted, random samples with 100% response rates. These are only theoretical because no published polls come close to this ideal.

Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Harris Poll surveys. The data have been weighted to reflect the composition of the adult population. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in our panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

These statements conform to the principles of disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

The results of this Harris Poll may not be used in advertising, marketing or promotion without the prior written permission of The Harris Poll.

Product and brand names are trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective owners.

The Harris Poll® #12, February 12, 2015

By Larry Shannon-Missal, Managing Editor, The Harris Poll