WASHINGTON—She is a liberal psychoanalyst. He is a conservative political journalist. Since getting married in 1980, New Yorkers Jeanne Safer and Richard Brookhiser learned character counts more than politics.
“The most essential thing in a person is not whom they vote for, but do they show up when you need them?” Safer said. When she was in the hospital for a month for cancer treatment, “several people who agree with me perfectly didn’t show up,” she said. But her husband was there every day.
Unlike Safer and Brookhiser, most Americans couples hold similar political views. A survey conducted by the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) in January found more Americans think couples should come from the same side of the political aisle. In 2013, only 17 percent of Americans said having different political views in a relationship is a major problem. Today, that number is 24 percent.
The survey discovered roughly one-quarter of 18- to 29-year-olds reported knowing their significant other’s politics before they started dating. The same was true of only 8 percent of those 65 and older.
The AEI study found some political issues are bigger deal-breakers than others. Nearly 24 percent of Americans said they could never date someone with a different view on abortion. President Donald Trump can also claim to be a dating dealbreaker: About 63 percent of Americans said they would not consider dating someone who had a different opinion of the president.
Shosana Weissman is a 27-year-old digital media manager at the nonpartisan R Street Institute in the nation’s capital. She said the profiles she has seen on dating apps often include statements like, “don’t go out with me if you voted for Donald Trump.” Weissman, who describes her opinions as right-of-center, said people have “ghosted" her or stopped communicating with her entirely without an explanation after they found out her political views.
After the 2016 presidential election, the dating website OkCupid reported a 64 percent increase in users who include their political affiliations in their profiles. The app Bumble added options for users to indicate whether they vote, and the app Hinge allows people to state their political views and screen out anyone with different beliefs.
“I think the hostility people have for people on the other side is masking how [they fear] the things they like about themselves wouldn’t be valued by the other side,” said Hans Feine, a 39-year-old Lutheran pastor from Illinois who writes for The Federalist. “What political stuff does is it reveals people’s general worldview toward children and family and what it means to be a person living in a world with sin and forgiveness.”
Fiene said he advises Christians to seek unity on “the spirit behind the laws, and then we can disagree on the best laws to accomplish that. So we need to care for the poor, [but] we can disagree about whether government programs are the best way to do that.”
That approach has worked so far for Drew Holden, a 27-year-old public affairs consultant in Washington. He is a conservative Republican while his girlfriend is a liberal Democrat. They met through Bumble and knew each other’s political stances before going out.
“We come into our discussions with a degree of humility,” Holden said. “The goal should not be to evangelize your particular perspective on an issue because that’s usually going to go poorly.”