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Online Dating and Assortative Mating: A Study of Partisanship in Romantic Relationships

Publication date 
January 30, 2017
In a new paper published in The Journal of Politics, Gregory Huber and co-author Neil Malhotra present their findings that political homophily is a strong factor in the formation of romantic relationships. The researchers acknowledge that previous sociology work has indicated that politically homogenous relationships occur more frequently than expected by chance. However, the reasoning behind the association between politics and social relationships remained unclear.
 
Huber and Malhotra created a study design that addresses the question through a general population survey component and use of real data from a national online dating platform. One thousand participants, ages 18 to 35, completed a survey with their personal preferences and information, one of which was political beliefs. Controlling for other variables, the researchers provided participants with profiles that reflected the political inclinations of others. They found that people were more likely to choose profiles with political views similar to their own. 
 
The researchers then collected data from an online dating site to test behavior and communication between potential partners in a non-lab setting. Instances in which a man expressed interest in a woman and she responded positively (a pairing) demonstrated a 10% greater similarity in political ideology than expected by chance.
 
The authors conclude that the influence of political homophily on choice of partner is similar to that of educational homophily, though half as powerful as race homophily. The researchers discuss that the preference for politically similar partners creates a risk of polarization and a reduced political tolerance towards differing views. Because educational attainment and levels of political engagement also affect relationship formation, social circles can become stratified across the country, which the researchers argue can shed light on the intersection between social inequality and political inequality.
 
Read Psychology Today’s article on the study“Dating Across Party Lines: Do Shared Politics = Love?”