A new research study reviews how, or if, political penchants influence dating and relationship development.
Brown University political scientist Dr. Rose McDermott discovered political posturing is conspicuously absent on Internet dating sites. In fact, political views are mentioned less often than card playing or being overweight.
Yet paradoxically, political interests appear to be a crucial factor in pursuing long-term relationships.
The study is published in Evolution and Human Behavior.
“Because we know that long-term mates are more politically similar than random attachment might predict, we were interested to see how people seeking a mate end up with people who share their political values,” said McDermott.
“This is particularly important because political ideology appears to be in part heritable, and so mates pass their ideology on to their children.”
For the study, “Do Bedroom Eyes Wear Political Glasses?,” researchers randomly evaluated 2,944 profiles from a popular Internet dating site and examined whether people indicated an interest in politics or selected a specific political view.
They found that only 14 percent of online daters included “political interests” in their profile, which ranked 23rd out of 27 interest categories — just below “video games” and above “business networking” and “book club.”
• Few individuals were willing to express a definitive political preference. Of those that listed politics as an interest, the majority — 57 percent — reported that their politics were “middle of the road.”
• Women were 8 percent less likely to report being interested in politics.
• A higher income, education, and degree of civil engagement (i.e., volunteerism) increased the likelihood of listing politics as an interest.
• Older daters and those with higher education levels were more willing to express a definitive political preference, such as “very liberal” or “ultra conservative.”
The findings were curious because previous studies have shown that spouses share political views more than almost any other trait, with religious affiliation being the exception.
As a result, the researchers reviewed the process between mate selection and actual mating – that is, what are the factors that lead to long-term partnerships between politically similar people?
They point to two possible explanations.
The first explanation is that humans desire compatibility in their long-term relationships. This commonality supports an evolutionary view that a harmonious bond will increase the likelihood of being able to raise offspring successfully.
A similar view is that individuals are not picky about politics at the outset of the relationship, but when things get serious, they are more apt to pursue long-term commitments with individuals who share political attitudes.
Another perspective is that people could be making long-term choices based on nonpolitical characteristics that correlate with political leanings, such as religion, thus unintentionally sorting on politics.
“At some point in the dating process we somehow filter out people who do not share our political preferences,” said co-author Casey A. Klofstad of the University of Miami.
“Our best guess is that in the short-run most people want to cast as wide a net as possible when dating. However, in the long run shared political preferences become a critical foundation of lasting relationships, despite the fact that many Americans are not even interested in politics.”
Source: Brown University