Survey Reveals a Decline in the Romantic Self-Image of Men and Women

A Porter Novelli Styles survey reveals that the early 21st century has taken a subtle but clear toll on romance. Even back in 2003, when Porter Novelli first popped the question, less than 50% of women and men described themselves as romantic. When the same question was asked in 2008, the numbers slipped for both women (from 44% to 42%) and men (from 38% to 36%).

Behind the 2008 numbers lie some fascinating differences across generational boundaries. Among women, a romantic self-image declines steadily with age; from just over half of Millennials (51%), it dwindles down to 44% of Gen Xers to 41% of Boomers to 31% of the Silent Generation. Among men, too, the romantic self-image is highest among Millennials (43%) but then sinks and stays virtually flat through Gen Xers, Boomers and Silents (35%, 36% and 34%).

“In an era where personal communication is less and less a face-to-face proposition, it is not surprising to see romantic feelings decrease. Status updates, SuperPokes and tweets have redefined human interaction, but they have not yet redefined romance,” said Adam Burns, Vice President of Strategic Research at Porter Novelli.

Slicing the data by marital status further illuminates the picture. There’s very little difference in the number of female romantics who are single (43%) and those surveyed who are married or have a domestic partner (42%). Contrast that with men: 40% of unmarried men are self-described romantics, whereas only 34% of married/domestic partner men are.

“The conclusion is clear,” added Burns. “Among men it’s not getting older, it’s being married that’s most likely to switch off those romantic feelings. Among women it’s the reverse; being married or not makes little difference, it’s getting older that’s most likely to dim the light of romance.”

At a time of rising cash concerns and diminishing romantic gestures, retailers will be challenged with how best to approach the upcoming holiday. “This adds an interesting twist to Valentine’s Day gift-buying,” said Michael Ramah, Partner, Director of Strategic Planning at Porter Novelli. “We may see more success with efforts centering on friendship and parent/child relationships than with those focused on romantic love.”

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