YouGov Survey Reveals U.S. Attitudes on Paying for Sex

Mar 14, 2016 4:03 PM PST

WASHINGTON — A new nationwide survey offers a snapshot of attitudes toward accepting payment for sex.

The YouGov survey, which interviewed 1,000 U.S. adults between March 5-7, comes at a time when sex workers and local campaigners have called for prostitution to be decriminalized.

In the survey, YouGov found that those polled narrowly say that accepting money for sex should be illegal (43 percent) rather than legal (40 percent).

“This conceals a notable gender gap, however, as a majority of men (51 percent) support legalizing prostitution but half of women (50 percent) say that prostitution should remain illegal,” YouGov said in its findings.

Additionally, YouGov said that whereas men are much more likely than women to admit to having paid for sex (12 percent to 1 percent) they are actually no less likely than women to admit to having been paid for sex (6 percent for both). 

The YouGov survey asked other questions that focused on the morality of accepting or paying money for sex, as well as punishment for accepting money for sex for those who think prostitution should be legal.

The survey broke stats down further by gender, age race, political party identification, family income and census region.

Whites were more likely than blacks to say they had purchased sexual services (7 percent vs. 5 percent), but they were less likely to say they had been paid for it (4 percent vs. 10 percent).

The YouGov survey also found that those in their 30s and early 40s were the most likely to have accepted payment for sex, at 9 percent while 8 percent of those 45 to 64 had been paid for it. 

Republicans were more likely than Democrats to have paid for sex (7 percent vs. 4 percent), but Democrats were also more supportive of legalizing prostitution, with about 40 percent of them in favor, compared to 32 percent of Republicans.

The survey also found that those in the lowest and middle-income brackets were the most likely to have been paid for sex. They also were more likely than richer respondents to have paid for sex themselves.

By region, sex buyers were highest in split across the U.S.’s four regions — Northeast, Midwest, South and West — but more people paid for sex in the Midwest, according to the survey. 

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