Political Ideology and Racial Preferences in Online Dating

Ashton Anderson, Sharad Goel, Gregory Huber, Neil Malahotra, and Duncan J. Watts

Abstract

What explains the relative persistence of same-race romantic relationships? One possible explanation is structural–this phenomenon could reflect the fact that social interactions are already stratified along racial lines–while another attributes these patterns to individual-level preferences. We present novel evidence from an online dating community involving more than 250,000 people in the United States about the frequency with which individuals both express a preference for same-race romantic partners and act to choose same-race partners. Prior work suggests that political ideology is an important correlate of conservative attitudes about race in the United States, and we find that conservatives, including both men and women and blacks and whites, are much more likely than liberals to state a preference for same-race partners. Further, conservatives are not simply more selective in general; they are specifically selective with regard to race. Do these stated preferences predict real behaviors? In general, we find that stated preferences are a strong predictor of a behavioral preference for same-race partners, and that this pattern persists across ideological groups. At the same time, both men and women of all political persuasions act as if they prefer same-race relationships even when they claim not to. As a result, the gap between conservatives and liberals in revealed same-race preferences, while still substantial, is not as pronounced as their stated attitudes would suggest. We conclude by discussing some implications of our findings for the broader issues of racial homogamy and segregation.

Details

Publication typeArticle
Published inSociological Science
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