If you're looking for love during this Presidential campaign season (or any time, as a matter of fact), there's a quick way to figure out whether that online profile incarnate is a genuinely compatible match: talk about politics. Oh, wait. That's one of the four topics -- alongside money, sex and religion -- Emily Post says young ladies must never, ever broach on a first date, right? Well sure, if you want to be a polite and all, don't mention the electoral college and super PACs. That said, personal experience has taught me that etiquette quickly curtsies and exits once you've found a keeper. And at the end of the night, isn't dating really just a search for someone who won't recoil at the sight of you polishing off a couple dozen chicken wings in bed while watching Girls?
Just as we're loathe to divulge secret habits, such as the embarrassing places we consume take- out, to prospective suitors, a 2011 study quaintly titled "Do bedroom eyes wear political glasses?" found that political views (not-so-surprisingly) aren't interests we readily advertise in the dating market. Out of the 2,944 online dating profiles the political scientists analyzed, only 14 percent acknowledged politics, with most blandly describing their stances as "middle of the road." Furthermore, people's red or blue leanings ranked fourth-from-last out of 27 dating profile interest categories, cozily sandwiched between video games and business networking.
Granted, a Pew Research Center survey published that same year also found an increasing number of Americans shying away from Republican or Democratic affiliations, so maybe that online dating data represented a broader distaste for all-things-Beltway. However, the survey also found that people's political ideologies were nevertheless entrenched in conservative or liberal values and platforms, which implies that many of those online daters probably weren't as "middle of the road" as they might've wished to appear in hopes of casting a wide dating net. Either way, we clearly seem to think politics and romance don't go together.
But all of that dainty tiptoeing around donkeys and elephants might do an eventual disservice for folks who are sincerely interested in long-term relationships because like it or not, people tend to end up with politically like-minded people. Another study published in 2011 put thousands of American married couples who had been together anywhere from one to 67 years under a sociological microscope to find out to what extent spouses see eye-to-eye on political and social issues, compared to how they match up on more biologically and genetically influenced traits, like physique and personality. The in-depth data finagling unearthed a bit of fascinating insight: above and beyond similar personality traits, affect and beauty, attitudes on politics and religion held much stronger correlations between husbands and wives. In other words, a tall, introverted Romney fan is statistically more likely settle down with a short, social butterfly Republican than a statuesque bookworm Obama-ite.
It's also worth noting that the study didn't just ask participants to check their preferred political parties and call it a day. It polled them on a 28-item index of political and social issues, including abortion, gay rights, living together and immigration. Regardless of how long a couple had been canoodling, those similarities also remained strong. In the words of the study authors: "It would appear humans place more importance on finding a mate who is a kindred spirit with regard to politics, religion and social activity than they do on locating similar mates in terms of physique or personality..."
So even though we're most likely to end up with someone who shares core values like politics, as opposed to hot-or-not ranking and grade-A personalities, we don't want to spoil the superficial fun quite so quickly, those two studies imply. Despite the overwhelming empirical evidence that humans generally adhere to assortative mating in which birds of a feather flock together, we want to believe, for whatever reason, that opposites attract. Not to say there aren't potential benefits of bucking the study findings and crossing party lines. A Bush-Kerry era New York Magazine story profiled a cluster of liberal-leaning singles who had inadvertantly slept with or dated conservatives and reported back red-hot romps, in the words of one source, "because of the forbidden aspect," dampened only by their guilt of fraternizing with the political enemy.
Now, if playing a round of "Would You Rather: Mitt or Barack Edition" on a date still doesn't sit well, OKCupid offers another way to deduce a person's probable political affiliations. Just toss out this head-scratcher: "Do you prefer people in your life to be complex or simple?" According to the dating site's enormous vault of personal information on would-be lovers, "complexity-preferrers are 65-70% likely to give the Liberal answer. And those who prefer simplicity in others are 65-70% likely to give the Conservative one."
Or, if you're looking for a kind of love like I am that knows no political bounds (and aren't we all?), you can ask extend a more straightforward inquiry -- chicken wings in bed: Check yes or no.