What’s more important in a romantic partner: great sex or similar political views?
“Great sex” has been the widely favored reply since dating app OkCupid first started asking its users this question in 2003 ― until now. For the first time in the app’s 15-year history, users in major cities like New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles have tipped the scale in favor of compatible politics, OkCupid told HuffPost.
The overall number of women prioritizing politics over sex doubled from 2016 to 2018, and the percentage increased from 27 percent to 42 percent across the country. Over the same period, the app has seen a 1,000 percent increase in political terms on people’s profiles ― reflecting a major shift in values that its executives have been watching closely since Donald Trump’s election.
“It’s truly, truly unprecedented the change in how people are using politics as a signal in dating,” said Melissa Hobley, chief marketing officer of OkCupid and a professional matchmaker. “Without a doubt, the recent presidential election and current administration have driven young women in particular, but millennials of both genders, to say, ‘Swipe left if you support Trump,’ or ‘I don’t even want to see you as a match if you don’t vote.’”
The sudden rise in dating political divides OkCupid has witnessed, particularly over the past two years, reflects the polarization of politics under Trump and the growing rage of his opponents ― particularly women. OkCupid is in a unique position to track that trend, as it is one of the few dating apps that requires its users to answer at least 15 questions about sex, politics and other values.
In addition to questions about oneself ― for instance, “How important is dental hygiene to you?” ― users also can indicate how important it is that a partner answer the question a particular way, so that the app can filter out incompatible people. The app regularly consults with psychologists and adds new questions to improve its matchmaking precision.
“Without a doubt, the recent presidential election and current administration have driven young women in particular, but millennials of both genders, to say, ‘Swipe left if you support Trump.’”
Since the 2016 election, the OkCupid team noticed such a strong interest in politics that it began sending its users push notifications with questions about specific issues and political figures. On Jan. 10, the day Trump visited the U.S.-Mexico border, the app sent a new question to users: “Do you support the wall?” Eleven thousand people answered the question that day, and the number has climbed to 1.5 million since then. While 87 percent said they don’t support the wall at all, 8 percent said they do; 3 percent said they support building a wall if Mexico pays, and the remaining 2 percent said they only support the wall if Mexico doesn’t have to pay.
OkCupid, like most dating apps, won’t share its exact number of users or any specific demographic breakdowns. But Hobley said the users skew millennial and urban, two groups that tend to lean liberal, with an even number of men and women. She said she has observed from internal data what others have reported ― that conservative men are having an increasingly hard time dating online, particularly in metropolitan areas.
“You may have read that Trump staffers can’t get laid,” Hobley said. “It’s kind of true, based on what we’re seeing, that Trump supporters are having these issues.”
Since the app has been asking the simple question, “Trump?”, since his election, 90 percent of users have responded “no” or “hell no,” indicating that the app should not even show the people who support the president. Millennial women, unsurprisingly, are the most likely to prioritize politics in online dating. Seventy-three percent of them (compared to 56 percent of millennial men) have told OkCupid they’re looking to date someone of the same political party, and half of all women on the app say they won’t date someone who doesn’t vote in elections.
In 2017, the app started allowing people to put badges on their profiles that indicated support for Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union, prompting The Federalist to publish a widely mocked essay titled, “Your Refusal to Date Conservatives Is One Reason We Have Donald Trump.”
HuffPost asked people on Twitter whether they considered politics a deal-breaker in online dating and received dozens of responses.
Several women said they won’t even date a man who indicates on his bio that he’s “moderate; in this increasingly polarized atmosphere, they assume that probably means he’s conservative.
“I never swipe right if they are conservative or ‘moderate,’” Olivia, a 23-year-old in New York, wrote to me. “In NYC saying you’re moderate is just a lie covering up for the fact that you want to get a date but are a conservative, which [in my opinion] is worse than just being a Trump Supporter in the 1st place.”
“But the worst worst worst guys,” she added, “are the ones that say ‘apolitical,’ because they must be living on a different planet.”
“Conservatives are so frustrated by reports of this phenomenon that they’ve launched a few of their own dating apps.”
Jason, a 39-year-old man in a conservative area in Kentucky, said he doesn’t indicate his liberal politics in his dating profile “partly out of fear.” But he filters out conservative women.
“It sucks that so much of the country is resorting to tribalism, but one side believes in equality for all while the other exists only for rich, white, straight, cis men,” he said. “Maybe some people can live with ‘agreeing to disagree’ on things like that, but I just couldn’t live with myself if I did.”
Conservatives are so frustrated by reports of this phenomenon that they’ve launched a few of their own dating apps, including Righter, Patrio and Donald Daters. Righter, founder Christy Edwards Lawton told The Daily Beast that conservatives have been discriminated against in online dating and that she might sue any liberals who try to join her app, just out of bitterness.
Hobley doesn’t see OkCupid’s political screening as discrimination. Younger generations are just becoming more politically engaged and ― in part as a reaction to the current administration ― recognizing shared values as central to a good romantic relationship, she said.
“This is so counter to what previous generations did, or what your own parents told you: ‘Don’t talk politics or religion until you’ve been dating a while,’” she said. “Not only are people not waiting till the third or fourth date ― people are saying, ‘I don’t even want to see you as a potential match if you don’t vote.’”
“Millennials get a bad rap on a lot of things, and some are deserved,” she added. “But we think this is awesome.”