Archives of Sexual Behavior

, Volume 44, Issue 1, pp 137–147 | Cite as

Do American States with More Religious or Conservative Populations Search More for Sexual Content on Google?

  • Cara C. MacInnisEmail author
  • Gordon Hodson
Original Paper


In America, religiosity and conservatism are generally associated with opposition to non-traditional sexual behavior, but prominent political scandals and recent research suggest a paradoxical private attraction to sexual content on the political and religious right. We examined associations between state-level religiosity/conservatism and anonymized interest in searching for sexual content online using Google Trends (which calculates within-state search volumes for search terms). Across two separate years, and controlling for demographic variables, we observed moderate-to-large positive associations between: (1) greater proportions of state-level religiosity and general web searching for sexual content and (2) greater proportions of state-level conservatism and image-specific searching for sex. These findings were interpreted in terms of the paradoxical hypothesis that a greater preponderance of right-leaning ideologies is associated with greater preoccupation with sexual content in private internet activity. Alternative explanations (e.g., that opposition to non-traditional sex in right-leaning states leads liberals to rely on private internet sexual activity) are discussed, as are limitations to inference posed by aggregate data more generally.


Religiosity Conservatism Internet searching Sex Sexual imagery 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyBrock UniversitySt. CatharinesCanada
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada

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