SALT LAKE CITY — For some single people in America who are looking for partners, loving or hating President Donald Trump is a big deal-breaker. A growing number of politically themed dating apps and websites are helping them sort through potential matches based on their support for the president.
As party polarization in the United States increases, the creators of these tools are banking on the belief that sharing political views is an important indicator of compatibility.
“Being with someone who shares the same core standards is absolutely essential if you’re truly searching for a real, life-changing relationship,” reads a description on Trump.dating, a website that lets you build a profile and search for, message and request to meet other Trump-loving singles. The site also features tag lines like “Make dating great again!” and “Find your pro-Trump match today.”
According to the 2017 American Family Survey, the overwhelming majority of Americans who are married report that their spouse belongs to the same political party. Surveys from the Pew Research Center indicate people now are more likely to marry someone of a different race or religion than to cross party lines to find a husband or wife. While acceptance of interfaith and interracial marriages is on the rise, more people than in the past are saying they would be upset if their child married someone from a different political party.
Since the election of President Trump, the phrase, “Trump supporters swipe left” has become commonplace on mainstream dating apps (swiping left on a person’s photo means you don’t like them) and the demand for dating services that cater to conservatives has increased.
While Conservatives Only, one of the most established platforms, launched during the Obama administration, a handful of other right-leaning online dating services have been created since. Trump Singles was released just a few months before the 2016 presidential election, but the website no longer appears to be in operation. Patrio, with a mission to “bring right-leaning individuals together” came on the scene in 2017. DonaldDaters and Righter, the newest of the bunch, were released in 2018.
Stephanie Coontz, director of research and public education at the Council on Contemporary Families in Austin, Texas, said the idea that political views are a key indicator of a person’s value system is contributing to political divisiveness. She said it’s not discriminatory to look for a partner who belongs to the same political party, “but in some cases it may be unwise.”
“One of the things people find out when they give someone else a chance is that a political disagreement does not mean you don’t share other core values,” said Coontz. “You may be be able to explore them and discuss them and find a middle way, a middle way that is still respectful.”
Last year, Politico Magazine detailed the woes of Trump staffers who faced open hostility and struggled to get dates in Washington, D.C. A 2017 survey by a dating app called OkCupid found that 74% of its users considered voting for Trump a deal-breaker. One reason may be that conventional dating apps appeal more to people living in big cities, which tend to have more Democrat voters.
A 31-year-old Conservatives Only user from Louisiana wrote on his public profile page that he is just looking for “a woman who is conservative enough to not yell at me in a coffee shop about how I am racist because I voted for Donald Trump.” His name is being withheld to protect his privacy.
The man also wrote on his public profile that he is anti-feminist and thinks “feminism has attacked femininity in general and devalues women as whole.”
Righter encourages women to be ladylike and men to make the first move. The app “celebrates men and their masculinity, and women and their femininity,” according to the website, which also says, “We realize this app might not be for everyone.” That includes gay people as there are no options for men seeking men or women seeking women.
In their Righter bios, men write things like “I have morals and love my country,” “2nd amendment purest, just looking for someone to take shooting,” and “I’m so excited to meet someone on here with the same political views as I have! I love my president Trump.”
The founder of Righter, Christy Edwards Lawton, told The Daily Beast that her company would sue leftists who tried to infiltrate the platform.
“I have a very nice legal team that will be handling that,” Lawton told The Daily Beast. “This is zero tolerance.”
Jeremiah Cummings, 40, from Colorado Springs, Colorado, downloaded the app after reading a news article about Lawton.
“I’ve done all the apps I could find and everyone that I ever ‘matched’ with were moderate to liberal and especially not anyone I had any common ground with,” Cummings said.
On Patrio, users can select from a list of 16 interests that include faith, liberty, free speech, MAGA, build the wall and blue lives matter. Profiles featuring photos with cowboy hats, American flags, guns or military uniforms appear more often than not.
“At Patrio, we know that political beliefs are not solely about politics. Rather, they reflect our broader principles,” the website reads. “When it comes to dating, values-compatibility is just as important as lifestyle-compatibility.”
Emily Moreno, the founder of Donald Daters, told Vox that anti-conservative discrimination was one of her reasons for creating the app last year. She said she once had a date walk out on her after she told him she worked on a Republican Senate campaign.
Donald Daters came under fire for unintentionally leaking the personal data of 1,600 users on the day of its launch, according to TechCrunch. Issues with the app made it possible to download the entire user database, which included users’ names, profile pictures, device type, private messages and access tokens, which can be used to take over accounts. A security researcher shared that database with TechCrunch. Moreno said the problem was quickly fixed, but while the app’s website is up and running, the app itself was not available for download from Apple’s App Store as of the publication of this article.
There are a number of dating websites for the left-leaning singles as well, including NeverTrump.dating, a response to Trump.dating, Democrat People Meet and Liberal Hearts, which welcomes all left-leaning and progressive daters including LGBTQ people.
It’s unclear whether the dating sites for conservatives or liberals are more popular. CandiDate is a nonpartisan app that explores each user’s political preferences in order to make matches based on their beliefs on issues like the environment, economy, gun reform, abortion and gay rights.
“I think it’s very telling about where we are right now, and it’s sad that politics has become entrenched in our dating lives,” Moreno told Vox.
What is changing
According to Coontz, political affiliation has become more important in marriage selection over time.
Dating itself is a relatively modern phenomenon. It began to spread in the 1920s and 1930s among working class Americans who were living in urban settings and had the opportunity to socialize. By the 1950s it was almost universal, she said.
Still, at the time, ideas about gender were extremely strict. The advice was always that the woman should defer to the man when it came to political views and men rarely discussed politics with their wives, according to Coontz.
“Now, we have much higher expectations of equality and friendship within marriage,” said Coontz. “People believe they need to be deep friends, they need to have a lot in common and spend a lot more time getting to know each other.”
At the same time, political polarization has increased in recent decades, according to Pew Research Center. These factors combined have made Americans much more picky when it comes to their partner’s political beliefs, Coontz said.
Peter Hatemi, a political science professor at Pennsylvania State University, told Vox the fact that people are increasingly unwilling to date someone who doesn’t share their political views could be a sign of rising polarization. But, he added, that doesn’t mean it’s discrimination. “It’s self-selection. It’s based on really strong data that like seeks out like,” Hatemi told Vox.
“I don’t think it’s discriminatory in the sense that that this is a sign of bad faith,” said Coontz. “We discriminate in so many ways. We have certain body types we like and certain other interests we look for.”
But, Coontz said, people may have something to gain from being more open-minded.
David Campbell, a University of Notre Dame political science professor who studies religion’s role in U.S. civic life, told OZY that cross-party relationships could ultimately help heal the partisan divide. An increase in interfaith marriages has been linked to a rise in religious tolerance, he said.
“If there were more inter-partisan marriages and close relationships, then we should expect a similar rising tide of political tolerance,” said Campbell.