Skip to main content

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


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.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4


  1. Conservatives overwhelming vote (and identify themselves as) Republicans (Jost, 2006). Further, when examining associations between the percentage of self-identified Republicans in each state in 2011 (obtained from Gallup, 2013) and sex-related Google-searches, results were largely equivalent to those observed when associations with state-level conservatism were examined. Upon controlling for demographic variables and state-level religiosity, greater Republican citizenry was associated with increased searching for sex images in both 2011 (r = .60, p < .001) and 2012 (r = .50, p < .001).


Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Cara C. MacInnis.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

MacInnis, C.C., Hodson, G. Do American States with More Religious or Conservative Populations Search More for Sexual Content on Google?. Arch Sex Behav 44, 137–147 (2015).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Revised:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:


  • Religiosity
  • Conservatism
  • Internet searching
  • Sex
  • Sexual imagery