The Bipartisan Couple: An Endangered Species

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A couple holds hands in Washington, DC. (Credit: KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images)

A couple holds hands in Washington, DC. (Credit: KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images)

The political odd couple is surely becoming an endangered species in the modern world of dating, and just the thought of maneuvering around what one single may label as “impossible political attitude” has caused many a viable suitor to be turned down.

As such, many professional matchmakers suggest avoiding all talk of politics when first diving into the dating pool, but the emphasis of love over ideology is sometimes lost among society’s reinforcement of political cleavages.

To get past the red tape encasing a date’s political ideology, online dating sites have now tailored their services to fall along party lines. Sites such as BlueStateDate.com and RedStateDate.com have provided their members with the opportunity to be matched with someone of similar political views. Online questionnaires then display where a user and their potential match fall on the political spectrum. Other tools lend to participation in straw polls, discussion on current headlines, and the framing of political involvement.

A study conducted by Gregory Huber of Columbia University and Neil Malhotra of Stanford Graduate School of Business has supported this self-sorting behavior in online daters. Huber and Malhotra found that there exists a trend towards political homophily among online daters, and, in analyzing the observed data using a broad dating site, Malhotra feels it is safe to assume the trend exists both in and outside online marriage markets.

Politically-minded individuals formulate this selection bias in their fear of disagreement and in the belief that marriages of political congruence will be more likely to last. Yet negative side effects abound.

The polarizing affect such sites have on America as a nation is often called into question. According to Malhotra, households can become echo chambers, in which fossilized political ideas are reiterated and remain untested, thus enhancing dissonance.

And, as is the norm, these social issues overflow into government.

“When households and neighborhoods become politically segregated,” recalls Malhotra, “it becomes difficult to draw congressional lines which are competitive, which can enhance elite polarization.”

Unfortunately, it’s hard not to trip when walking down two sides of the political aisle, romantically or not, and therefore, “opposites attract” is not the most fitting of observances in this case.

As posited by Malhotra, “While a saying is that ‘opposites attract’ the other saying is that ‘birds of a feather flock together.’ Our evidence shows that ‘opposites attract’ is more the exception and ‘birds of a feather’ is more the rule, at least in political affiliations.”

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