Feb 14, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Dating in a politically polarized world

An illustration of Valentine's Day candies with political affiliations written on them.

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Political polarization in the Trump era is finding new ways to seep into our personal lives.

The big picture: Romance seekers see a heightened value in knowing their potential suitors' political affiliations. Major dating platforms including OkCupid, Hinge and Bumble have introduced filters to sift out matches with "incompatible" politics.

Why it matters: OkCupid chief marketing officer Melissa Hobley says the filters help daters efficiently find partners with similar values.

  • "If you care deeply about reproductive rights, for example, then you should not be matched with people that believe the opposite," Hobley said. "And call that a bubble, but I actually call that respecting and creating technology that supports that view."
  • "It's so great that we have gone from messaging based on a photo to, 'Wow, you're into Warren, I'm into Bernie — let's debate that over a margarita,'" she added.

Details: OkCupid saw a 187% increase in political mentions on profiles between 2017 and 2018. The company says the trend continued in 2019.

  • The platform finds millennials to be the most likely to filter out matches with differing politics compared to Gen X or Gen Z.
  • An OkCupid survey found that 72% of female respondents in the U.S. said they could not date someone who had strong political opinions that were "the exact opposite" of their own.

And it's not just who you vote for, but whether you vote at all. OkCupid found that its female users were twice as likely as men to filter out matches who don't vote.

  • Millennial and Gen X women are the most likely demographic to filter out non-voters.
  • "Voting is the new six pack," Hobley said. "It is way less about what you look like, and much more what you believe in and what you care about."

Between the lines: Some conservatives say dating has proved challenging in the age of Trump.

  • Anti-Trump mentions on OkCupid profiles have spiked by more than 52% since 2017, while mentions of "conservative terms" fell by 78% in 2019.
  • Specialized dating apps for Republicans such as “Righter" and "Patrio," meanwhile, have blossomed since President Trump's election.
  • Politico reported in 2018 that Trump administration staffers have struggled to find dates in liberal-leaning Washington, D.C., and often turn to dating within the administration instead.

And middle-of-the-road voters are taking some of the heat, too. Users who mark themselves as "moderate" on online profiles are often assumed by users to be hiding right-leaning ideologies, according to HuffPost.

  • "The stakes feel very high for progressive, liberal-leaning daters. And so, because of that, it's even more important to these users when you talk to them ... They care very deeply," Hobley said.

Go deeper: The future of the first date

Go deeper