For the first time, we have immediate access to a potential partner’s personal information and history through social media and what they self-disclose in dating app questionnaires and bios.
This easy access gives single adults the opportunity to self-select into romantic echo chambers and prevents first dates with people who may belong to the party across the aisle. In dating, political opinion feels more relevant now than ever before.
When Trump took office in 2016, dating apps like Tinder and Bumble existed but were still relatively taboo to talk about casually. Now, arranging dates on Coffee Meets Bagel, The League, or Hinge, to name just a few, is ubiquitous among 20 and 30-year-old single adults. Even before I meet someone from an app, I thoroughly investigate him, send links to his profile to my friends, and basically create a dossier on the man.
What Does It Mean To Disagree with Someone Politically?
In a 2019 Pew survey, more Americans responded that they see “very strong” partisan conflicts today than in the past two presidential election years when the same survey question was asked.
But what does it mean to disagree with someone politically? Democrat and Republican values mean different things to different people. They even mean different things for politicians in the respective parties.
Democrat and Republican values mean different things to different people. They even mean different things for politicians in the respective parties.
Meeting someone in person and being attracted to them in the moment might momentarily crush any aversion to their political identity just enough for an introduction. But going out of your way to not meet or set up a date with someone who votes differently prevents the opportunity for attraction to overcome political hesitation.
The Impact of Politics in a Bipartisan Relationship
To investigate what’s happening in the trenches, I interviewed four people between the ages of 20 and 32 who have dated someone who identifies with the opposite political party.
To start, I called my ex-boyfriend and BernieBro, Tim, age 23, to hear his perspective on our bipartisan relationship. When asked if he thinks people are politically self-isolating, he answered, “I don’t really know if self-selecting is a thing outside of Tinder and Bumble. I do know that seeing that [political identification] can be prohibitive.”
Speaking to the value of dating someone politically different, he said, “Relationships should challenge you, and challenges are good. In both of my relationships, especially with you, talking about differences in arguments on different topics has opened my eyes to different points of view that had merit…but I don’t want to be challenged on certain things.”
Jay, a 32-year-old Republican, similarly said, “the first thing I'm looking for in a partner is what do you believe and why….When I was dating in college that was a big source of stress when I realized I’m never going to marry my girlfriend because she had negative thoughts on homeschooling and really liked Barack Obama and I thought ‘okay, you’re not my wife’.”
It’s important to be open-minded and polite, but there comes a point when values matter.
Everyone I interviewed was united in saying that it’s important to be open-minded and polite, but there comes a point when values matter. So maybe we aren’t closing the door on love, rather we are setting ourselves up for successful partnerships.
Jay summed it up best, “If it's Bumble and you’re going on a date with someone it [politics] shouldn’t really matter that much…but yeah more seriously if you're looking for long term compatibility, those are very important conversations.”
A 2019 AEI survey showed that most Americans who have a strong favorable or unfavorable view of Trump are unwilling to date someone who has a different opinion. 83% of people with a “very unfavorable” opinion of Trump said they wouldn’t be interested in dating someone who thought differently of the President.
Sharing the same values with a life partner is important, but don’t let political polarization and fear stop you from giving someone a chance.
Ben, a 20-year-old Republican, spoke truth to these numbers, “Trump has made it less acceptable to liberals to be Republican, so it’s made dating harder because they see me as morally reprehensible.”
Beth, 22, like most Americans in the AEI survey, was fine with disagreeing on some issues but not others. She said, “I've disagreed with someone I was dating on economics and struggles that some classes face - didn't mean I stopped dating them at all! There was someone, however, who didn't agree with me…[his] not believing in any sort of climate change...did make things very difficult.”
Falling in love isn’t a business, even though apps profit over people connecting with one another. We can try to screen for compatibility before ever meeting someone, but the way they vote doesn’t always accurately reveal their values and opinions on different issues outside of the binary “Democrat” and “Republican” boxes. Sharing the same values with a life partner is important, but don’t let political polarization and fear stop you from giving someone a chance.
*Names have been changed for privacy.
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