On-Line Dating and Politics: Opposites Do Not Attract

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Photo by Allie Martin
Wrong again.
Political scientists have long-established that there is a strong link between a parent's political views and their off-spring: if you're conservative, your kids(s) are more likely to be as well; the same holds true for those with liberal political views. Moreover, political scientists have documented that, contra Paula Abdul, opposites do not attract: people tend to end up in relationships with people of similar ideological leanings (the research, however, does not tell us why this is; we don't know for sure).

Well, some enterprising researchers set out to help us find the answer. To do that, they drew from a large sample of Internet dating profiles. Here are some of their findings:

- Conservative men are more likely than liberal men to not want to date someone outside of their own race

- Conservatives who use tobacco -- or do not -- are less tolerant of nonuse/use of tobacco in their mates

- Conservative men want a woman with the same relationship status (both never married, both divorced & c.) -- the authors point out that this is line with research showing that conservatives don't really like dissimilarity

- Most on-line daters stay away from politics: 56.6 percent stated they were "middle of the road," compared with 17 percent (conservative) and a little over 10 percent (liberal); in fact people were more likely to say they were overweight than say they were interested in politics

- Older, White and more wealthy daters are more open to different relationship statuses of their mates (let's be honest, these are the older dudes who dangle their money in front of 23 year old girls -- hey, let's go to the Bahamas even tho we've only know each other for 2 weeks)

- White, Black and Latina women are all more likely than men, as a whole, to want to date "within race"

The bottom line: even as on-line daters downplayed politics on their profiles, "the main result from our data is that both liberal and conservative daters overwhelming seek partners who are more like themselves on almost all [other] traits."

Now, the researchers posit, quite reasonably, that what is really going on here -- "like seeks like" as they put -- is that both liberals and conservatives seek or gravitate towards people who are like themselves across a range of demographic traits and characteristics (i.e., non-political factors). This makes sense.

Then, however, the authors go a bit too far. The researchers hypothesize that seeing as how American politics are already polarized, on-line dating might make politics even more polarized. This is a bridge too far: it is American political elites (e.g, politicians, lobbyists, campaign folks . . . the Beltway) that are polarized, not the American populous, so the authors are conflating the two. Political polarization has many causes, I doubt your next match.com date will change much. "Wink" away, boys and girls. (Or just get on Tinder -- it's more fun and it's free).


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