Skip to content
 

The Role of Political Affiliations and Attraction in Romantic Relationships- Emily Kofoed

4Kofoed-Politics-and-Attraction
Title: 4Kofoed-Politics-and-Attraction
File: 4Kofoed-Politics-and-Attraction.pdf
Size: 358 kB

Abstract

As discussions of politics have become increasingly ubiquitous in popular culture, political affiliation has playing an increasingly important role in the way people select their romantic partners. While political parties remain on seemingly opposite sides of an ideological spectrum, some people are willing to date across party lines. Still, a number of others refuse to become romantically involved with someone whose political affiliation opposes their own. An electronic survey of 168 college students revealed that the majority would consider engaging in a romantic relationship with someone from another political party. However, a significantly larger number of respondents refuse to even attempt dating across party lines. This research provides implications for a return to civility in political perspectives and the roles political opinions play in both familial and romantic relationships.

Both political parties have their good times and bad times, only they have them at different times.– Will Rogers

Growing up in the “Wellstone!” era of Minnesotan politics – a time of liberal rule, public education funding and high taxes – I thought it was normal for parents to discuss politics. My father worked for an oil company and was strictly conservative on both social and fiscal issues. My mother was a first grade teacher, and while she could bend a bit on social issues, generally aligned with Democrats on economic policies. Their debates about politics were often the ones that strengthened their bond to one another and improved the way they argued about other issues – even if they just sounded like arguments to me. Heated political discussions allowed them to fight smart and fight in a way that was considerate of the other person’s beliefs. Nevertheless, political differences served as the fuel for many arguments that would not have existed had they both subscribed to the same political ideologies. I often wondered if their opposing political beliefs hindered their attraction to one another, or if it was a factor they did not give much consideration.

The reasons people choose to enter into interpersonal relationships are influenced by a variety of factors such as physical attraction, proximity, complementarity (Huston & Levinger, 1978). When two people enter into romantic relationships, these factors all contribute to the type and strength of attachment that is formed. For people who consider themselves to be interested in politics, and especially those who affiliate with one particular political ideology, the political involvement and ideology of their romantic partner can impact the way the relationship develops. However, the topic of politics was more traditionally avoided than embraced in everyday conversation with relatives, friends and romantic partners. Dailey and Palomares (2004) explain that discussions of politics and religion are often avoided, not because they are seen as taboo, but because they are sensitive topics that affect people emotionally. Politics can be an especially uncomfortable topic for romantic partners despite the amount of time most people spend thinking about them. A 2008 Gallup Poll discovered that American’s consumption of political news is at an all time high, and that the age group showing the largest increase of political news consumption is in the 18-29 year old age group (Morales, 2008). As political news consumption increases, it seems inevitable that political involvement and the importance politics holds for Americans will also increase.

Not all Americans are necessarily politically engaged or involved. However, for people with strong political opinions, election years can be both stressful and exciting. For these same people looking to begin a romantic relationship, many spend extra time looking for someone whose political beliefs align closely with their own. The Internet has made the entertaining of desire a possibility through web sites directed to single people in a variety of niche markets – especially partisan politics. These web sites gain patrons because people want to find someone whose political viewpoints both mirror and reinforce their own (Harris, 2004). Democratsignles.com, actforlove.com, liberalhearts.com, democratmatch.com, republicanpeoplemeet.com, republicansingles.us, singlerepublicans.com are all web sites devoted to helping people from one political party find a mate from the same party. Sohn (2004) calls people from different sides of the political spectrum “enemies” and suggests that these political opposites could only have a relationship founded on the excitement of the “taboo” of sexual intercourse. By “taboo” Sohn was referring to the act of being involved with a political enemy – not the act of having sex.

The role political affiliation plays – both in public discourse and private relationships – is changing. The election of Barak Obama has galvanized politically involved citizens on both sides of the liberal/conservative spectrum. Furthermore, while election year political involvement may by inherently greater than involvement in non-election years, it is safe to say that the way the American youth approaches politics is different today than in years past. The topic of politics may have been largely avoided or disregarded in the selection of romantic partners in the past. However, the increase in political news consumption and the availability of political compatibility matchmaking web sites are evidence that the topic of politics is at the forefront of Americans’ minds. This indicates that political affiliation is playing a larger role in how people choose romantic partners. Understanding of this role is important for relational communication scholars because it impacts the way we view attraction, topic avoidance, and even conflict styles.

While there has been work produced regarding how politics have been communicated within family relationships, communication scholarship to date has done little to understand the role political ideologies and involvement play in romantic relationships. If political affiliation is an increasingly important factor in the way romantic partners establish relationships, it is important to investigate whether partners’ political ideologies actually influence the outcome of the relationship. There are plenty of people who list a particular political affiliation as a stipulation for their potential romantic partners. However, I argue that people can maintain healthy relationships with partners belonging to opposing political parties, as long as they engage in open and considerate discussion of their political philosophies. Additionally, this research allows us to observe the intersection of political communication and relational communication – an opportunity that serves to deepen the literature of the communication discipline as a whole. In order to address the impact political affiliation has on romantic relationship, I will review previous work that explores how romantic attachments are formed and how political affiliations are communicated. After presenting the methodology and results of this study, I will discuss the meaning of my results and address the implications this study has for future relational communication research.

Literature Review

One area of relational communication that has a rich amount of research is that of interpersonal attraction. It is important to have knowledge of interpersonal attraction research, because in any potential romantic relationship there are a variety of factors contributing to the attractiveness of the individuals involved. Interpersonal attraction is defined by Tardy (1988) as a confluence of attitudes containing cognitive, affective and behavioral dimensions that result in the evaluation of another person. The definition presented by Tardy is largely influenced by Huston (1978) who was one of the first communication scholars to address the function of attraction in interpersonal relationships. Interpersonal attraction is not limited to “liking” or to a certain type of relationship like romantic or familial. This explains why Tardy’s operationalization of attraction considers the junction of several components. The combination of the perceiver’s evaluation process and the characteristics of the target results in a particular level of attraction to the target (Graziano & Bruce, 2008). This concept takes into account factors like environment and context which occur outside of the interaction between the two people, but that still have an impact on the result of the interaction.

McCroskey and McCain (1972) proposed that interpersonal attraction involves three dimensions: social attraction, physical attraction, and task attraction. Social attraction is correlated with liking, physical attraction is correlated to appearance, and task attraction corresponds with dependability. The three dimensions are present in all interactions, and they are often independent of one another. For example, a high level of physical attraction may be more important when selecting a romantic partner, but a higher level of task attraction may be more appealing when selecting a business partner. Physical attraction can often have a greater influence on overall interpersonal attraction as a result of the halo effect, which explains that people who are physically attractive are often perceived as more attractive on the task and social dimensions as well (Guerrero, Anderson, & Afifi, 2007).

Another important element of attraction involves the influence of attitude similarity. One common hypothesis in studies of attraction is the similarity-attraction hypothesis; and conversely, the dissimilarity-repulsion hypothesis, which suggest that people are both attracted to those who have similar attitudes and less attracted to those who have opposing or different attitudes (Ah Yun 2002). This theory would suggest that people would be more attracted to those sharing their political attitudes and less attracted to those with opposing political attitudes. However, more recent studies are suggesting that these hypotheses only apply to the initial interaction and attraction between individuals, and that there are contradicting and external factors that are unaccounted for. Sunnafrank (1985) found a strong contradiction to the dissimilarity-repulsion hypothesis and noted, “Individuals who know they are paired with attitudinally dissimilar partners should be more attracted to their partner after get-acquainted conversations,” (p. 74).

A common argument for forming relationships with people who have different attitudes and personalities is that when the two people are together their relationship will be balanced – often referred to as the idea that opposites attract. Guerrero, Anderson & Afifi (2007) claim that “opposites” are more compatible in relationships where the partners have opposing behaviors and resources instead of relationships where the partners oppose in values or attitudes. This suggests that political opposites are less likely to experience a successful relationship than people experiencing a discrepancy in a resource-related factor like wages earned. Chen and Kenrick (2002) performed two studies to see if attitude dissimilarity led to lower levels of attraction or even repulsion. Their findings showed that people were more attracted to people who had more similar attitudes than less similar attitudes except in the area of political group affiliation, which had no effect on attraction (Chen & Kenrick, 2002, p. 123). Because political affiliation can be either seen as a behavior or attitude, it is difficult to define how political affiliation functions within romantic relationships. It is possible that people who view their political choices as attitudinal or value-based are more likely to incompatible with political opposites than people who view political choices as simply the act or behavior of voting. The terms politics and political may appear to be loaded with meaning. In order to combat this, the operationalization used in this research is the one presented by Dailey and Palomares (2004). They define politics as any communication representing “political views, candidates/politicians, policies or social issues” (Dailey and Polomares, 2004, p. 478). This definition provides space for the multiplicity of issues and dynamics that shape the political environment in the United States.

It is important to note that political involvement is not completely a conscious choice – that other factors may play a role in the development of political opinions. Caprara, Barbaranelli, and Zimbardo (1999) found a correlation between personality traits and political preference in a study. They explain, “Citizens bring to the political arena needs and aspirations for personal and social well-being that determine their choice of political party” (Caprara, et al., 1999, p. 176). People who associate with certain political parties were found to have some certain general personality traits in common. However, just because people associate with different parties, there is no indication that their personalities are incompatible. In fact, Ashby, Rice and Kutchins (2008) discovered that partners who shared the same type and level of perfectionism were much less compatible than partners who were on differing ends of the perfectionism scale. In the diffusion of personality traits, it is not entirely clear whether the perfectionism example could be replaced with political involvement. Nevertheless, it would be logical for level of involvement or political interest to play more of a role in the compatibility of romantic partners with opposing political ideologies than the ideologies themselves.

The way people perceive their political involvement is likely to influence the role political affiliation will play in their selection of romantic partners. An investigation of the literature regarding the formation and maintenance of political ideologies will help to explain how politics function in romantic relationships. Often, younger people have not been exposed to many people with politics different from their own. Few would argue that political opinions are with us from birth, but instead, environmental factors have much to do with why we believe what we believe. Bishop (2008) discovered through an extensive longitudinal research that Americans are subconsciously choosing to live in cities and even neighborhoods where they will be surrounded by people who share their political ideologies. While some hold the school system responsible for the political education of children, Jennings and Niemi (1968) explain that whether intentionally or unintentionally, the majority of adolescents have adopted the same political affiliation as their parents. Nevertheless, Jennings and Niemi fail to account for parents who have opposing political beliefs. The choice to consider the parents one unit is probably applicable to most of the families in their study, however much could be learned from analyzing the political affiliation of children with parents who oppose politically.

Weiner (1978) provides evidence that Jennings and Niemi were accurate in their assumption that spouses tend to have the same political perspectives. He found that 77% of spouses have the same political affiliation. However, he notes that this does not necessarily presage that people intentionally marry those who share their political views. Instead, Weiner (1978) states, “The high degree of homogeneity of party preferences between spouses is not only a function of ‘assortative mating’ but is also a function of a more complicated process of ‘political resocialization’ that occurs after marriage” (p. 211). This “political resocialization” means that spouses with different political affiliations are likely to switch parties to match the affiliation of their spouse. Wives are more likely to switch political parties, but men occasionally make the party switch as well.

Even though parents’ political affiliation is the greatest indicator of children’s’ eventual political affiliation, it is evident that some voters do not share their parents’ political parties (Knoke, 1972). While the desire to rebel against parents may be one reason why children deviate from parents’ political affiliations, rebellion is likely not a strong enough motivator for a child to choose to switch political parties. Beck and Jennings (1991) state that most common reason people switch political parties is due to the “times” into which they were born. These “times” refer to periods of ubiquitous sociopolitical events like wars or economic depressions. Because most people are indoctrinated with one political ideology for a large span of their childhood, they are left with two possible outcomes: 1) maintain and uphold the ideology they are taught from childhood or 2) be able to staunchly defend a shifted political ideology in order to answer to those wondering why they changed parties. What this means is that people who subscribe to a particular political ideology tend to stand firmly in the belief of that ideology.

If the current sociopolitical landscape is turbulent, then people will generally have a clearer reason for switching parties than if the times were normal. Regardless of one’s reason for their party affiliation, if someone considers himself or herself politically active, they likely possess the necessary motivation to defend their position. The dissonance one feels when meeting, and being attracted to, someone of a different political viewpoint can be difficult to overcome. Additionally, people are more likely to date someone who is a part of their social network, and people sharing a social network are more likely to vote the same way in presidential elections (Liu, Ikeda, & Wilson, 1998). The confounding social factors combined with the political and relational communication research suggest that people are more likely to begin relationships with people who have similar characteristics. A first hypothesis is proposed to evaluate the likelihood of dating within one’s political belief system:

H1: People will be more likely to date someone if they possess shared political beliefs.

Not only do people interact more often with people who share their general political opinions, but people are also more often drawn to others for their similarities than their differences. Conversely, political literature as well as literature from the relational communication field have little to say about whether people of opposing political ideologies can engage in a healthy romantic relationship. There is plenty of research that discusses switching political parties to match one’s romantic partner, but the idea that spouses or partners might maintain their diverging political philosophies is largely ignored. The opportunity to date someone with similar political beliefs may be easier to find. However, I believe most people would be open to engaging the prospect of a romantic relationship with a person holding opposing political opinions. Thus my second hypothesis speaks to the potential of success in cross-party romance:

H2: People will not reject a potential romantic partner based solely on their political beliefs.

Sohn’s (2004) suggestion that the only pleasure that could come from a cross-party romantic relationship would arise out of the taboo of “sleeping with the enemy,” may initially seem unreasonable. However, because the people in one’s social group tend to vote similarly, it is entirely possible that a romantic partner with opposing political beliefs would be a social outsider. When forming social groups, especially those based on political affiliation, the categorization of self as a member creates in-group solidarity. Liu, et al. (1998) states, “Out-group members are perceived as untrustworthy, often inferior, and more homogeneous, creating a basis for structure in people’s minds” (p. 186).  These factors could easily effect the connection and perceptions of trust within the romantic relationship. Thus, my third hypothesis addresses the myriad challenges two involved, political-party opposites would face in addition to the other challenges inherent within romantic relationships:

H3: Romantic relationships between people with similar political ideologies will be more likely to last than relationships between two people with differing political ideologies.

Method

Sample

While it may be beneficial to observe political relationships across a large range of age groups, the sample for this project was limited to students currently attending college. The reasons for a college-student sample are two-fold. Initially, because the research is conducted at a public university in the Midwest, college students provide a convenience sample. Additionally, and perhaps more importantly, adults in the 18-29 year old age group have seen the greatest increase in political news consumption in the past four years – indicating a generational difference in their approach to political involvement. While political affiliation may have not necessarily been a factor for romantic partner selection during the administrations of Presidents Reagan and Carter, the sociopolitical events converging during the 2008 election (e.g., wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, economic recession, gay rights movement) have shaped this generation in a way that necessitates political involvement. The sample contained 168 college students ranging in age from 18-32 years old. They were obtained through both a convenience and a snowball sample. I contacted 50 friends from across the United States who are currently attending college and asked all of them to complete a short, online survey and to contact at least one friend to complete the same survey. All 168 of the respondents finished the survey. Of the respondents, 69.0% identified as female and 31.0% identified as male.

The one content issue that may exist in the survey process is sample bias. Because I identify as liberal, the majority of my friends also identify as liberal. While this is consistent with past research, it may mean that my sample was more liberal than the entire population. However, more college students traditionally identify as liberal than do the rest of the U.S. population.

Instruments

The sample was recruited online through e-mail and the social networking web site Facebook. They were asked to take a survey constructed solely for the purposes of this research. It took approximately 10 minutes to complete the survey. The survey instrument contained 10 quantitative questions – two of which contained five sub-questions, and two others contained one qualitative sub-question each (Appendix A). The questions were a combination of unstructured response prompts, dichotomous questions and Likert-response scale questions. In addition to questions regarding basic demographic information, the survey focused on measuring opinions of the importance of political affiliations among potential or past romantic partners. Other questions included political involvement and opinions of respondents’ mothers and fathers as well as the length of past romantic relationships. Respondents were also asked to answer three interview questions to provide deeper insight into the issue of political affiliation and romantic partner selection.

Dillman (2000) claims that electronic mail surveys have prompt returns, lower item nonresponse and more complete answers to open-ended questions. Utilizing the electronic survey allowed me to reach a large sample population and each respondent completed the survey. Though Dillman claims the main disadvantage of e-mail surveys is that not everyone has an e-mail address. However, because every college student is issued a university e-mail address, my entire population has access to e-mail. Additionally, the electronic format of the survey eliminates the geographic restriction of paper surveys. I was able to reach college students from across the United States.

The measuring instrument was reliable, because even though the sample was a convenience/snowball sample, a large enough number of college students were surveyed, and they represented an appropriate range of ages. The questions of the survey were worded in a way to eliminate confusion and increase reliability. One indication of the instrument’s reliability is evidenced by the fact that my results were nearly identical after 75 responses to what was produced after 168 responses. Additionally, people with strong political opinions are generally open to talk about them, so the survey instrument did not encounter problems with social desirability.

In order to represent the validity of experiment, I will address how the instrument related to the four types of validity. The instrument was authentic because the results showed a clear relationship between the two variables of political involvement and romantic partner desirability. There was also a positive relationship between parent (specifically mother) political affiliation and child political affiliation. Internal validity is a bit hard to observe in the two main variables being measured. The most apparent causal relationship will be further addressed in my results discussion, but through the open-ended response questions a stronger causal relationship appeared between level of political interest and romantic compatibility than type of political interest and romantic compatibility. The measurement validity could have been a bit stronger in this study because I intentionally operationalized the concepts of liberal and conservative in a way that was more open-ended. This was done so that the political affiliation appeared on more of a spectrum than on two sides of a scale. The interpretive nature of the terms allowed for people who do not necessarily self-identify as Democrat or Republican to still place their political ideology on the instrument’s spectrum. Despite the small possibility of bias in sampling, the strength of the causal relationships resulting from the study do provide external validity. Consequently, the implications that arise from this research can be generalized to groups other than college students.

Results

The combination of questions 6 and 7 provided the response to my first hypothesis. Question 6 asked: “Have you ever dated someone who shared your overall political beliefs?” and Question 7 asked: “Have you ever dated someone who had opposite political beliefs from you?” In response to Question 6, the vast majority of respondents, 78.4%, noted that they had dated someone who shared their overall political beliefs. In response to Question 7, a smaller majority of people, 54.8%, noted that they had dated someone with opposing political beliefs. H1 purported that people would be more likely to date someone if they possess shared political beliefs. The majority of respondents answered that they had been involved with both types of romantic partners – those with the same political beliefs and those with opposing political beliefs. The first hypothesis was confirmed because 23.6% more people had dated people with similar political beliefs than people with opposing political beliefs.

Question 8 asked: “Would you ever date someone with political beliefs opposite from yours?” The results showed that 51.5% would date someone with opposing political beliefs. Only 18.0% responded that they would not, and 30.5% responded that they were not sure. This question confirmed H2: People will not reject a potential romantic partner based solely on their political beliefs. While a majority of respondents would consider dating someone with opposing political beliefs, a large number of respondents stated that they were not sure. Most of the written responses to the open-ended question 8b (Why or why not?) addressed either the concern that respondents would not be willing to date someone whose political opinions would be considered extremely liberal or extremely conservative – or that having political opinions that could be supported was a more important factor than the type of political opinion the potential romantic partner subscribed to.

Open-ended sub-questions 6b and 7b provided the answer to the third hypothesis. These sub-questions asked how long the respective relationships from questions 6 (regarding same political beliefs) and 7 (regarding opposing political beliefs) lasted. While the length of romantic relationships with partners sharing political ideologies lasted a maximum of 10 years and an average of 5.83 years, the length of romantic relationships with partners of opposing political ideologies lasted a maximum of 21 years and an average of 2.39 years. The 21-year relationship reported in question 7b was an extreme outlier because the next longest opposing-politics relationship lasted 13 years and the majority of responses lasting less than one year. Conversely, the majority of relationships with partners sharing political opinions lasted more than one year. This question addressed H3: Romantic relationships between people with similar political ideologies will be more likely to last than relationships between two people with differing political ideologies. This hypothesis was also confirmed.

Additionally, Question 5 asked the respondent to rank the political beliefs of several people, including themselves, on a scale from 1 to 7 where 1 is extremely liberal and 7 is extremely conservative.

Political beliefs among family members and romantic partners

_____________________________________________________________________

Majority Rank*           Percent at majority rank

Respondent                                                     2                                  26.9%

Respondent’s mother                                      3                                  18.6%

Respondent’s father                                        6                                  22.2%

Respondent’s last romantic partner                2                                  24.1%

The romantic partner                                       2                                  24.0%

from Respondent’s longest relationship

*Reported rank of political affiliation where 1 is extremely liberal and 7 is extremely conservative

The results of Question 5 indicate that respondent’s fathers are significantly more conservative in their political beliefs than their mothers.

Discussion

Through the results of the survey, all three hypotheses were upheld. Overall, the survey results indicated that while people were willing to enter into a romantic relationship with someone with the opposing political ideology, they were much more open to a romantic relationship with someone whose political opinions matched theirs. Additionally, the open-ended responses revealed two common themes: (1) Respondents were not willing to date people with extreme political opinions, and (2) Respondents were more concerned with the ability of their romantic partner to support their political opinions than where the opinions landed on the ideological spectrum. The first hypothesis purported that people would be more likely to date someone who shared their political beliefs. This hypothesis was lent the most support, as 23.6% more of the respondents would be willing to date someone who shared their political beliefs than someone who did not.

One of the most significant results from my findings was not related to any of my hypotheses, but instead was related to the question regarding political beliefs of the respondent and their family, past, and current romantic partners. The majority of respondents listed their fathers as having significantly more conservative views than themselves and slightly more conservative views than their mothers. The weight of the majority responses to this question offer starkly different results from past political research showing strong correlation between the political beliefs of parents and children (Jennings and Niemi, 1968; Knoke, 1972; Weiner, 1978). Though current research has continued to support the hypothesis that children take on the political affiliation of their parents, the majority of this research focuses on adolescents’ political opinions. These results provide two implications for research regarding the formation of political opinions. First, this research shows a liberal turn toward politics while in college, which directly correlates with my personal experience of watching friends become more liberal as their college careers progress. Second, these results lend support to Beck and Jennings (1991) results that claimed the “times” had a significant impact on the youth vote. Because the political forces of the United States have resulted in economic hardship, war, and endless human rights violations such as the detainment camp at Guantanamo Bay and Constitutional bans on gay marriage, the youth have responded by turning away from the political affiliations of their parents.

More than 80 of the open-ended responses suggested that the political affiliation of romantic partners mattered much less than their partner’s amount of civic involvement. In response to Question 9 (Does the political affiliation of your romantic partner matter to you?) A 27-year-old female stated, “For me it does not matter if what political persuasion a person may be, as long as they have an interest in politics. I could not date someone who does not vote or thinks politics is stupid,” and a 21-year-old female stated, “It doesn’t matter as much as to who they are affiliated with, but what I think matters is that they at least know what is going on in the world of politics.” This lends support to the research stating political apathy is worse than extremism. Jeffres, Atkin and Neuendorf (2002) found that people who were both able and willing to become involved in their community had more thought-out and better-articulated political opinions, and found it easier to engage in interpersonal discussions about politics, even with people holding opposing viewpoints. People who are civically engaged are, by definition, not apathetic. Apathy about political issues makes healthy discourse within a relationship, political or not, nearly impossible.

If people with opposite political views can both be attracted to one another and maintain a relationship, we must understand how to engage in discussion that will make relationship maintenance possible. Chengshan (2002) claimed that political discussions were a type of civic engagement, and that having interpersonal political discussions can both contribute to political tolerance and strengthen interpersonal bonds. Certainly it can be discouraging to attempt a romantic relationship with someone whose positions on politics vary so greatly from your own. However, we can see now that the people attempting these relationships must make an effort to be civically engaged, and the best way to increase one’s civility is to always practice respectful discussion skills. If partners continually engage in political discussions with the intent of “winning” the argument, then it is unlikely that their relationship can succeed. However, if they enter into these discussions with the intent of making their opinions known and understood, the discussion will likely be healthier and strengthening to the partners’ bond instead of destructive to it.

Though the results of this research provided an interesting reflection on the way politics and relational communication are related, there are limitations that must be addressed. In an attempt to make the language of the survey instrument inclusive, it resulted in questions that may have appeared vague. While results were significant, I am concerned that the significance is a reflection of the overly inclusive language of the survey. If I repeated the survey, I would provide more specific operationalizations of the terms in question. Finally, I think I would focus more on the strength and nature of romantic relationships in my survey. A lot of my results left me with questions about the initial attraction and the role political affiliation played in it, and the attitude similarities and differences among romantic partners of same and different political affiliations. Specifically, I would like to answer the question of whether political leanings are viewed more as behaviors or ideas.

I would be extremely interested in further pursuing this area of research. Through this survey I received many open-ended responses differentiating fiscal and social conservatives, and if I did this survey again, I would ask a question regarding these issues. I found it interesting the way many of my (liberal and conservative) respondents spoke respectfully of fiscal conservatives, but demonized social conservatives. Additionally, I would be very interested in turning this research into a longitudinal study of relational maintenance between couples that listed themselves as having the same political ideologies, and those who identified themselves as having opposing political ideologies. The results indicated that relationships between people belonging to the same political party lasted longer, but I am not sure the results were significant enough to fully support that claim.

Despite the limitations of this research, I believe it addressed several topics that are not paid enough attention by the communication discipline – including how political opinions are developed and communicated in families, the role political affiliations play in romantic relationship attraction, and the way college students view politics. Most importantly though, this research provided an important marriage of two areas of the communication discipline: relational and political communication. I believe it is important to understand how to research from a variety of perspectives, and understanding the role political communication plays in relational communication is a step in that direction.

References

Ah Yun, K. (2002). Similarity and attraction. In M. Allen, R. W. Preiss, B. M. Gayle, & N. Burrell (Eds.) Interpersonal communication research: advances through meta-analysis. (pp. 145-167). Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Ashby, J. S., Rice, K. G., & Kutchins, C. B. (2008). Matches and mismatches: partners, perfectionism, and premarital adjustment. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 55: 125-132.

Beck, P. A., & Jennings, M. K. (1991). Family traditions, political periods, and the development of partisan orientations. The Journal of Politics, 53, 742-763.

Bishop, B. (2008) The big sort: why the clustering of like-minded America is tearing us apart. Houghton Mifflin: New York, NY.

Bryant, J., & Miron, D. (2003). Excitation-transfer theory and three-factor theory of emotion. In J. Bryant, & D. Roskos-Ewoldsen (Eds.) Communication and emotion: Essays in honor of Dolf Zillmann, (pp. 31-60). Routledge: New York and London.

Caprara, G. V., Barbaranelli, C., & Zimbardo, P. G. (1999). Personality profiles and political parties. Political Psychology, 20: 175-197.

Chen, F. F., & Kenrick, D. T. (2002). Repulsion or attraction? Group membership and assumed attitude similarity. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 83: 111-125.

Chengshan, Y. (2002). Does discussing politics contribute to political tolerance? Unpublished paper presented at the 2003 Annual meeting of the International Communication Association, San Diego, CA, pp. 1-61.

Dailey, R. M., & Palomares, N. A. (2004). Strategic topic avoidance: An investigation of topic avoidance frequency, strategies used, and relational correlates. Communication Monographs, 71, 471-496.

Graziano, W. G., & Bruce, J. W. (2008). Attraction and the initiation of relationships: A review of the empirical literature. In S. Sprecher, A. Wenzel, & J. Harvey (Eds.) Handbook of relationship initiation, (pp. 269-288). CRC Press.

Guerrero, L. K., Anderson, P. A. & Afifi, W. A. (2007). Close encounters: communication in relationships, 2nd ed. Sage Publications, Inc. Thousand Oaks, California: p. 62.

Harris, L. (2004, Feb. 13). Holding out for a “horse person”. Salon.com. <http://www.salon.com/mwt/featrue/2004/02/13/niche_sites/print.html>.

Huston, T. L., & Levinger, G. (1978). Interpersonal Attraction and Relationships. Annual Review of Psychology, 29, 115-156.

Jeffres, L. W., Atkin, D., & Neuendorf, K. A. (2002). A model linking community activity and communication with political attitudes and involvement in neighborhoods. Political Communication, 19: 387-421.

Jennings, M. K., & Niemi, R. G. (1968). The transmission of political values from parent to child. The American Political Science Review, 62, 169-184.

Knoke, D. (1972). A causal model for the political party preferences of American men. American Sociological Review, 37, 579-689.

Landau, M. J., et al. (2006). The siren’s call: Terror management and the threat of men’s sexual attraction to women. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 90, 129-146.

Liu, J. H., Ikeda, K., & Wilson, M. S. (1998). Interpersonal environment effects on political preferences: The “middle path” for conceptualizing social structure in New Zealand and Japan. Political Behavior, 20, 183-212.

Martin, M. (Host). (2008, April 21). Couple straddles love, politics. Tell Me More. Washington, DC: National Public Radio.

McCroskey, J. C., & McCain, T. A. (1972). The measurement of interpersonal attraction. Paper presented at the annual convention of the 1972 Western Speech Communication Association: Honolulu.

Morales, L. (2008, September 22). Americans more tuned in than ever to political news: Record interest in political news coincides with record distrust in media. Gallup Poll: Washington, D.C. <http://www.gallup.com/poll/110590/Americans-More-Tuned-Than-Ever-Political-News.aspx>.

Shah, D. V. (1998). Civic engagement, interpersonal trust, and television use: an individual-level assessment of social capital. Political Psychology, 19: 469-496.

Sohn, A. (2004, Nov. 1). Crossing the party line: can a Bush voter and a Kerry voter find happiness together? Maybe for a little while. New York Magazine.

Sunnafrank, M. (1985). Attitude similarity and interpersonal attraction during early communicative relationships: a research note on the generalizability of findings to opposite-sex relationships. The Western Journal of Speech Communication, 49: 73-80.

Tardy, C. H. (1988). Interpersonal evaluations: Measuring attraction and trust. In C. H. Tardy (Ed.) A handbook for the study of human communication, (pp. 269-284). Greenwood Publishing Group.

Weiner, T. S. (1978). Homogeneity of political party preferences between spouses. The Journal of Politics, 40, 208-211.