Dating across the political aisle

MEGAN BASHAM, HOST: It’s Tuesday the 25th of February, 2020. Glad to have you along for today’s edition of The World and Everything in It. Good morning, I’m Megan Basham.

NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher. First up: dating during campaign season.

BASHAM: Don’t do it!

EICHER: Right?! 

First dates, according to my old and increasingly hazy memory, are never easy. But in today’s climate of political divisiveness, they can be especially difficult. Political views and party affiliations have increasingly become criteria for screening potential romantic partners. And by screening, I mean screening out.

BASHAM: Joining us now to talk about this new speed bump on the road to love is WORLD’s Harvest Prude. She’s based in Washington, D.C., where she covers politics for WORLD Digital.

Good morning, Harvest!

HARVEST PRUDE, REPORTER: Good morning, Megan!

BASHAM: The most famous political odd couple has to be James Carville and Mary Matalin. He’s a Democrat. She’s a Republican. They worked on opposing political campaigns but still managed to fall in love and get married. Their romance seemed implausible in the 1990s, but it seems impossible now! Tell us what you found out about how single Americans factor political views into their dating life.

PRUDE: Right, so the American Enterprise Institute recently conducted a survey and they found that Americans increasingly think couples should be on the same side of the political aisle—so to speak. In 2013, only 17 percent of Americans saw politically mixed relationships as a problem, now it’s inched up to 24 percent. They also polled Americans on which issues are most divisive when it comes to dating; and that found that Americans don’t have a “single issue” that’s a dealbreaker, but rather it’s more of a range of disagreements on things like gun laws, religious liberty, and climate issues that would make dating across the aisle difficult. 

BASHAM: A lot of singles these days use dating apps or online dating sites. How are those factoring into this new reality?

PRUDE: Yeah. So, some of the sites or apps have options where you can put your political affiliation and you can put this is a dealbreaker for me. So it won’t even show you the option of people who think differently. And the survey found that around a quarter of 18 to 29 year olds take steps to find a potential partner’s politics before they start a relationship. And sometimes before they even go on a date. So they’re increasingly wielding dating apps to kind of act in this way.

BASHAM: That’s interesting. And I noted in your story that it kind of was the opposite for the older generation.

PRUDE: Yeah, so only eight percent of those 65 and older acted in the same way. And some of them didn’t even report knowing their potential partner’s political views when they started off in their relationship and started progressing.

BASHAM: And I think that’s probably the old school way of dating. You noted in your report that while politics in general is divisive, there is one person—and we probably shouldn’t be surprised—who plays an outsized role in all of that. 

PRUDE: Yeah, so it turns out that Donald Trump can claim to be a dating dealbreaker. Whether you love him or you hate him, a full 63 percent of Americans would not even consider dating someone who had a different opinion of the president.

BASHAM: That’s interesting but, as I said, probably not surprising. Now, you’re in D.C., and you’re single, you’re a smart, young professional. You’re involved in a lot of things. I’m guessing you probably have some single friends. What are you hearing from them about the effect politics and political views on their dating lives?

PRUDE: So, some people, they said they personally would date across the aisle, but they worry about what their parents or what their friends would think, how they would perceive their dating partner. Others say they only date across partisan lines either because of bad experiences or because that’s how they want to approach things. And then one young woman I talked to said she has had the frustrating experience of having someone ghost her, which means to suddenly stop talking to her without explanation, after she expressed a conservative opinion. So, it’s definitely a tricky issue that’s on the mind of a lot of young people and definitely something we could use wisdom for.

BASHAM: It’s funny you mention that she felt like she was ghosted for expressing a conservative opinion, and this is kind of a tricky question to ask, but I am seeing a lot of stories out there in the media, a lot of social media chatter that seems to suggest that maybe that rejecting somebody on the basis of their political views tends to go more in one direction than another. Is that something you found in your reporting?

PRUDE: You know, there’s not really hard data to back that up, but I did talk to the person who conducted the study—Dan Cox with AEI—and he kind of gave me some anecdotes telling me that some of the conservatives he talked to sort of reported self-censoring their views when they were in politically mixed company, with other young people, or when they were maybe going out on dates. So that could suggest that it does tend to cut more in one direction. But, on the flip side, we’re also seeing more dating websites and dating apps that are specifically directed to conservatives. One of these apps is called DonaldDaters, which that’s a reference to the president. So there are definitely groups on both sides that want to kind of avoid crossing the aisle—in the area of love, at least.

BASHAM: Harvest Prude writes for WORLD Digital, where she covers politics in a weekly roundup called The Stew. To find more of her reporting, visit Thanks so much for joining us today!

PRUDE: You’re welcome, Megan.

(Photo/Getty Images, Photo by Chris Delmas/AFP)

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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