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Do Bedroom Eyes Wear Political Glasses?

- September 6, 2011

That is the title of a new article by Casey Klofstad, Rose McDermott, and Peter Hatemi (gated; ungated).  They randomly sampled about 3,000 profiles from a popular internet dating site and investigated whether people indicated an interest in politics or their political views on the site.  Here’s one fun graph, with my notation in red:

Only 14% of respondents indicated that politics was an interest.

And here’s a fascinating tidbit.  On this website, people were more likely to describe themselves as overweight than say that they like politics.  Via email, Klofstad says:

bq. …a larger proportion of our sample voluntarily described their body type as either “heavy set,” having “a few extra pounds” or “stocky” (17%) than listed “politics” as one of their interests.

This reluctance to talk politics is interesting because, as Klofstad and colleagues report, many studies have found that people tend to form long-term relationships with others who share their political preferences.  So how does this happen, given reluctance to advertise political opinions in a forum like on-line dating?  Or, as Klofstad et al. state the puzzle:

bq. …what steps in between mate selection and actual mating occur that drive politically similar people to long-term partnership?

One possibility is simply that politics enters into the equation later.  In other words: for the hypothetical Democrat, a Republican is the person you date, not the person you marry.  Another possibility is that people can often select politically like-minded people by proxy and even unintentionally, simply by using information like religiosity.

For more see the paper.