Failing to woo a liberal this Valentine’s Day? It’s not just you. For some liberals in the United States, the presidential election results have been a total turn-off.
Normally in the first month of the year, the dating site Match.com sees an uptick in the number of active users on the site. January, after all, is a popular month for singles to get back out there.
But this January, Match.com noticed something surprising: a decrease in activity among the site’s more liberal users. In January, “people who call themselves liberals were far less likely to sign up with Match” and weren’t contacting potential matches or checking out new profiles as much, says Helen Fisher, the company’s science adviser.
Meanwhile, conservatives flocked to find new partners in droves. Users in counties that voted for Donald Trump seem to be more interested in dating than users in counties that voted for Hillary Clinton.
Match was curious about why, as the site didn’t see conservatives drop out of the game after Barack Obama’s reelection in 2012. So in the past few weeks, Match randomly polled 1,800 of its users. The sample included roughly the same number of Trump and Clinton voters (38 percent voted for Trump, 40 voted for Clinton) and slightly more men than women (54 percent of the sample were men).
The results suggested the election really did have an effect on users’ self-reported dating drive: 29 percent of liberals said they felt less like dating since Trump won. Among conservatives, that figure is 14.2 percent.
Why? Match is not so sure. Fisher, a biological anthropologist by training, suggests a simple answer: “They’re depressed.” (A political loss could depress the drive to mate. Or it could be that liberals are generally feeling downtrodden and aren’t yet ready to let joy back into their lives.)
What’s more, conservatives reported a greater willingness than liberals to reach out across the aisle in their love lives post-election. Around 60 percent of the liberals responded they are less likely to date a conservative than two years ago. Meanwhile, around 56 percent of conservatives said the same.
Of course, a poll of Match users isn’t representative of all of Americans. But it illustrates a trend other social scientists have picked up on. As Ezra Klein has written, it’s now more common for Americans to discriminate based on politics than it is to discriminate based on race.
“The more partisanship becomes a social identity — and I think this is as true today as it's been in modern American politics — the more we should expect people to engage in in-group favoritism and out-group discrimination," political scientist Danny Hayes told Klein. So it’s not surprising that in the aftermath of a hostile election cycle, partisans are feeling less warmly toward one another, and less likely to date the other side.
“We tend to fall in love with somebody who has the same values as we do,” Fisher says. “And this is a time when the values are very polarized, and very personalized.”
Which is perhaps concerning. People who have more social interactions with members of other political parties tend to have warmer feelings about them, Pew Research finds. “Fully 62% of Republicans with just a few or no Democratic friends feel very coldly toward Democrats,” Pew reported in June 2016. “That compares with just 30% of Republicans who have at least some Democratic friends.”
As the political shockwave of the 2016 election continues to set in, people are still figuring out how to deal with it on a personal level. A recent Reuters poll finds the number of people who reported getting into arguments with family or friends increased 6 points from December to January (from 33 to 39). Thirteen percent told Reuters they had ended a relationship with a family member or friend due to the election.
But if Republicans and Democrats can’t get together over awkward first-date drinks, how will the parties ever get along?