Do bedroom eyes wear political glasses?

It’s an idea that has been on a lot of British minds lately. The political upheaval between the Leavers and Remainers has had a blanket effect on the everyday life of UK and EU citizens alike. Perhaps most notably are how the differences in political opinions impacts our relationships to others.

From long-standing friendships and romances to new meetings and casual flings, Brexit has had a powerful influence on how these relationships continue and, sometimes, end or even fail to start. But how pervasive is this influence really?

A recent study done by Datingroo has shed some light on the consequence of people looking for love online in a Brexit era. The results indicate a nuanced reaction from people with a range of depth that speaks to how external influences such as politics touch on the way we engage with others.

And from the look of things, it seems as if activities like online dating are serving as a boiling point over differing views on Brexit.

Datingroo’s research indicates that “there are more people who actively date who feel very affected by Brexit (56%) than those who think Brexit has nothing to do with their dating choices (43%).” People in long-term relationships felt “a chasm between” them over the results, according to Vice.

It’s little wonder too, given how personally invested people become when identifying with either Leave or Remain. In what was one of Britain’s most historically momentous political decisions, the narrow split over the future direction of the country resonates with individual belief, fears, and hopes. These complex emotions become transferred to our social and romantic circles, and in turn dictate who we become interested in dating.

The study done by Datingroo finds commonality with the 2017 research of Gregory A. Huber and Neil Malhotra, presented in their study “Political Homophily in Social Relationships: Evidence from Online Dating Behavior”, which outlines how political identity, issue positions, and political engagement play a significant role in determining who we match with and date.

According to Huber and Malhotra, their “experimental study revealed that people react more positively to ideologically congruent profiles and perhaps also to those that exhibit similar levels of political interest.” These findings correlate with Datingroo’s own, wherein “the fact is that 55% of survey respondents said they have been refused by someone whose beliefs on Brexit were different than theirs”.

This means that, in reality, opposites do not always attract.

One of the most important takeaways that comes from Datingroo’s research is a point that confirms one of Huber and Malhotra’s conclusions about online dating and political affiliation and activity: “this provides direct evidence of social sorting along political lines and may also drive future polarization through the increased homogenization of political beliefs within households and social networks”. No event in British history has been as polarizing as Brexit, and the ensuing growth of homogenization within dating communities shows just that.

The results are a little worrying, to say the least.

Still, Datingroo’s research has indicated that a significant portion of the population either try to avoid politics when looking for a new relationship, or that they simply don’t mind if their partner or potential partner has a different political outlook than they do. As Datingroo points out from their discussions with top dating brands in the UK, “dating websites don’t ask users about their political views”.

This matches with what Casey Klofstad found in his own 2016 study, “Do Bedroom Eyes Wear Political Glasses?” In it, Klofstad states that “These data show that most individuals are reluctant to advertise politics... However, the correlates of political attitudes and behavior, such as education and civic engagement, do predict whether a person uses politics as a way to attract a mate.”

Politics then is not always the first thing on people’s minds when they begin to date, but it is a determining factor for some depending on their background and is influential in the long-term relationship couples may share with one another.

At first glance, one might think the impact of Brexit on online dating may seem temporary and superficial in the grand scheme of things, especially amidst the uncertainty surrounding the full effect of Brexit on the UK. The truth is that not only are we seeing a strong shift in social communities develop because of this political upheaval, but also that online dating is serving as a grim measuring stick for how communities are further isolating themselves away from differences that they may disagree on.

Time will tell whether this division between the UK and the EU will truly come to completion by 31st January 2020 but as Datingroo shows, the division within the UK can be seen clearly amidst Leavers and Remainers.

Whether this divide widens or not will depend on how we all approach one another’s different beliefs in the future, and how well we can compromise our ideologies to better weave Leaver and Remainers together. 

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