Valentine’s Day is quickly approaching, and with American society deeply divided over the election of Donald Trump as President of the United States, it’s difficult to imagine that politics won’t play at least a partial role in the romantic endeavors of some Americans during this year’s holiday of love.
Imagine for a moment you’re a single person, but you don’t want to find yourself alone on Valentine’s Day without a date. Like so many people in the modern world, you turn to any number of online dating platforms to find your Valentine, such as OK Cupid or Tinder. Politics, not playing a central role in your life, has been left off the personal description on your dating profile. Likewise, the people you scope out on the site also leave politics off their descriptions. You find what seems like a perfect match due to shared interests in sushi, Twin Peaks, and a stated preference to actually meet someone in person as opposed to finding a new online penpal. You message the person, chat them up a bit, and make plans for dinner on Valentine’s Day. Everything seems perfect so far.
You meet up at the best sushi restaurant in town a little early for dinner because they were booked near solid for Valentine’s Day. The date goes well. It turns out you both love classic punk rock, have read a few of the same books, and try to travel as much as possible. It seems like this could be the beginning of a great relationship. Politics never comes up, because there are better things to talk about. It’s still early, so you both decide to head down to the waterfront to walk around and maybe get a couple of drinks. You leave the restaurant and decide it makes sense to take one car rather than two. As you approach your date’s car, that’s when you see it: a Trump/Pence bumper sticker on their car. You voted for Hillary, and you’ve been “with her” for years. Suddenly, you’re not quite as hopeful about this being the start of something real and lasting. The right-wing talk radio playing in their car when they turn the key only confirms this suspicion.
Some might characterize these thoughts as somewhat shallow, but according to Psychology Today, a study conducted by researchers at Stanford and Yale finds that such thoughts are quite common. “Homophily” is a name given to the tendency of people to find partners whose political beliefs match their own. The study sought to find whether people seek out partners with shared political beliefs, or if there’s a tendency for partners to adopt some of their partner’s views over time. To do this, they conducted both lab research and a study of online dating behaviors.
“In the lab study, 1,000 participants filled out the survey with their own information including their political preferences,” the article says. “Then, the researchers showed them a variety of different profiles designed to control for other factors and test whether people were more interested in partners with similar political ideologies. The profiles indicated whether the person shared the subject’s politics. They found people were more likely to express interest in profiles of people with similar political beliefs.”
The data collected from online dating sites also supported these results. The study found people are about 10 percent more likely to choose partners whose political beliefs match their own.
It’s easy to see why, given the results of this study, the election of Donald Trump could potentially exacerbate this tendency for people to seek out partners whose views match their own. It’s hard to remember a time when politics were as divisive as they are right now in the United States. According to Chicago Tribune, a study conducted in December of 2016, found that 13 percent of respondents have ended a close relationship with a friend or family member over the 2016 election, often centering around opposing views on Donald Trump. One marriage counselor quoted in the Chicago Tribune article said she often tells clients having problems over politics that they need to decide “do they want to be married or do they want to be right.”
“We need to figure out a way to listen to each other,” Sally Strosahl tells her clients. “To treat each other with respect and be nicer. It’s really not about the politics, but how we treat each other.”
Such sage advice may be the key to saving a long-term relationship from dissolution over politics, but political differences may be an insurmountable obstacle to overcome for two people who have started dating when it comes to their relationship potential. To an extent, this has always been the case, but for Valentine’s Day 2017, in the age of Donald Trump, it could potentially be the rule rather than the exception.
[Featured Image by Joe Raedle/Getty Images]