There's a surplus of liberal women and conservative men
Two of the most important trends in American life are the increasing tendency for women to identify as liberal, and the increasing intolerance shown by liberals to their ideological opponents. These trends are no doubt related, since women are more ideologically intolerant than men. Put together, they spell trouble for the future of marriage in the US.
In a recent article for the Atlantic, sociologists Lyman Stone and Brad Wilcox note that there’s now a surplus of liberal women and conservative men on the dating market. They analysed data from the General Social Survey and found that among single Americans aged 18–30 there are only 0.6 liberal men for each liberal woman, and only 0.5 conservative women for each conservative man.
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So if singles match up with people of the same political views, 40% of liberal women and 50% of conservative men will be left without a partner. Liberal women comprise about one third of the relevant cohort, and conservative men make up another 15% — which means that one in five singles won’t be able to find a partner with the same political views. That’s a lot of people.
But can’t the surplus liberal women and the surplus conservative men just match up with one another? Don’t count on it. Americans increasingly prefer to date someone who shares their political views, and this is particularly true of Democrats.
A 2019 Pew Research survey revealed that 43% of Democrats and 24% of Republicans wouldn’t date someone from the opposing party. A 2020 YouGov poll found that 45% of Democrats and 38% of Republicans would be unwilling to date across party lines. And the 2020 American Perspectives Survey revealed that 79% of Democratic women and 48% of Republican men would be unwilling to date someone with a different view of Trump.
Several other surveys have found similar results. The numbers aren’t directly comparable as they asked slightly different questions, but averaging them still provides a reasonable gauge of people’s preferences. Encouragingly, the mean and median were similar for both groups: 63% and 66% for Democrats versus 36% and 35% for Republicans.
So almost two-thirds of Democrats aren’t willing to date a Republican, and more than one third of Republicans aren’t willing to date a Democrat. Since the more intolerant group’s preferences determine the level of matching, only about a third of surplus partisans could match with someone from the other side.
Of course, there are also moderates and independents to consider. The final level of matching would depend on how willing partisans were to date them. If most of the Democrats who won’t date a Republican would settle for an independent, there shouldn’t be too many left without a partner. And if intolerant people match up with co-partisans first, the total left without a partner would be lower still.
Nonetheless, the combination of political intolerance and the partisan gender gap will surely make it harder for young Americans to find a partner. Polarisation isn’t just bad for politics: it’s bad for family formation too.