Americans prefer to receive love through quality time with their partners and physical touch. Far fewer want gifts and acts of service.
People have different expectations when it comes to giving and receiving love. A popular book by Gary Chapman, The 5 Love Languages, claims that people tend to express and desire love in one of five ways — or, as he calls them — “languages.” These include quality time (such as hanging out or doing shared activities), physical touch (such as cuddling, kissing, or sex), words of affirmation (such as compliments or saying “I love you”), acts of service (such as doing a chore or running an errand), and giving gifts (such as homemade or purchased presents).
YouGov surveyed 1,000 Americans about their preferences for giving and receiving love. We found that many Americans are unfamiliar with the five love languages: Only 30% of U.S. adults say they have heard of them. Half of women under age 45 are familiar with the languages, while women 45 and over, as well as men, are less likely to be familiar with them.
We showed survey takers a description of the five love languages and asked them to rank the languages from the way they most prefer to receive love to the way they least prefer to receive love. The love language preferred by the most people is quality time: 38% rank this as their top love language. Women — those under 45 (41%) and those 45 and over (44%) — are especially likely to say quality time is their favorite way to receive love.
The second most common top love language, ranked first by 24% of Americans, is physical touch. Men – especially those 45 and over – are much more likely than women to name physical touch as the top way they prefer to receive love.
The third-ranked love language is words of affirmation; 19% of Americans choose this as their preferred way to receive love. Women who are 45 or older are most likely (24%) to rank this form of love highest, and men under 45 are least likely (12%). The two least preferred love languages are acts of service (ranked first by 13% of people) and receiving gifts (7%). Younger men and women were more likely to prefer gifts than older men and women.
We also asked people in serious relationships to guess what their partner’s preferred love language is. We then compared these responses to the love language individuals ranked as their own preference. Many people report having a different love language than their partner. Those choosing quality time are most likely to be aligned with their partner: 43% say their partner also prefers quality time, perhaps in part a reflection of the overall popularity of this love language or the fact that spending time together is by nature a mutual activity. People who say their love language is words of affirmation also tend to say this is their partner’s love language. Americans who prefer each of the other three love languages — physical touch, acts of service, and gifts — are less likely to say their partners’ preferences align with their own.
Most men (62%) and women (66%) in relationships believe they do an “excellent” or “good” job expressing love in the way that their partner prefers to receive it. But, when asked to evaluate how well their partner expresses love in the way they want it, there is a more significant gender divide. About three-quarters of men (73%) say their partner does an “excellent” or “good” job showing love in a way that works for them, compared to 64% of women who say the same. Still, hearteningly, Americans in relationships are more likely to rate their partners well for how they show love than rate themselves well.
Methodology: This U.S. News survey was conducted by YouGov using a nationally representative sample of 1,000 U.S. adult citizens interviewed online on January 27 – 31, 2022. This sample was weighted according to gender, age, race, and education based on the 2018 American Community Survey, conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau, as well as 2016 and 2020 Presidential votes (or non-votes). Respondents were selected from YouGov’s opt-in panel to be representative of all U.S. citizens. The margin of error is approximately 3% for the entire sample.