Do Bedroom Eyes Wear Political Glasses?

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:

…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:

…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.


9 Responses to Do Bedroom Eyes Wear Political Glasses?

  1. Andrew Gelman September 6, 2011 at 2:04 pm #

    I suppose I should read the paper, but . . . isn’t it possible that people talk about politics on the date? You learn a lot about someone by just talking with them for five minutes.

  2. Scott Monje September 6, 2011 at 3:17 pm #

    As soon as they actually meet the each other, the secret of “stockiness” will be out of the bag, but political proclivities can be kept under wraps until they see how things develop.

  3. Carlisle Rainey September 6, 2011 at 3:40 pm #

    Maybe there are a lot more overweight people than people who like politics.

  4. Jordan September 6, 2011 at 3:53 pm #

    I was going to make a similar observation as Carlisle. By most estimates, about 60-65% of the U.S. population is overweight. By contrast only 35% (give or take) identify with one of the two major parties. So basically people are playing the odds (you’re more likely to get a date being overweight than a partisan).

  5. Shubha September 6, 2011 at 5:43 pm #

    I’m sure any online dater will read this and be thinking the same thing I am.. you can’t get away with not including any body type at all (nobody will message you then, assuming you have something to hide), and as Scott said if you lie…well people will catch on quickly. However if you don’t list politics as an interest nobody will assume you have anything wrong…
    Put another way – there are 27 interests on that list alone for people to choose from as well as the “no answer” option, but there’s usually only 4 or 5 body types to check off and you have to check off one of them…

  6. RobC September 6, 2011 at 8:22 pm #

    I hypothesize that fewer people actually like walking in the rain than claim to in their personal ads. Now all I need is a research grant.

  7. celestus September 7, 2011 at 9:15 am #

    I don’t think it’s that ridiculous that only 1 out of 7 Americans list politics as an interest. That sounds pretty close for the middle-class public high school I went to. It’s essentially saying that 10% of people without a bachelor’s degree are interested in politics and 25% of people with a bachelor’s degree or higher are interested in politics.

    Plus, as implied above, it might be better to keep any potentially controversial topics under wraps- note that 23-24% of people identify religion as an interest, even young Internet-using singles are probably plurality Christian.

  8. zacademic September 8, 2011 at 9:45 am #

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

    maybe they have a conversation after meeting for the first time. ever.

  9. EmilyKennedy September 8, 2011 at 10:44 pm #

    I met my husband on a social networking site and I guarantee you there was information in my profile that revealed my political stance, I just didn’t openly say I was interested in politics. If I say I read Chomsky and like the band Propagandhi, that’s a coded way of saying I’m waaaay leftie. If my husband had listed “anything by Ayn Rand” under favorite books I probably never would have answered his emails.