The role of political similarity in romantic relationships Public Deposited

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  • March 22, 2019
  • Phillips, Chelsea Jacqueline
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Political Science
  • After 60 years of studying political behavior, political scientists have concluded that Americans are not well-informed about politics, interested in political affairs, engaged in political behavior, or constrained ideologically. Yet, psychological scholarship on interpersonal relationships shows that these same Americans seem to use explicitly political criteria when selecting social networks, picking discussion partners, and even choosing spouses. Why do Americans, who appear to be politically ignorant and disinterested when answering survey questions, use their political attitudes when doing something as fundamental as evaluating potential and actual relationship partners? I argue this is because political attitudes are core attitudes revealing fundamental values that are difficult to compromise on. Thus, individuals seek like-minded partners when pursuing romantic relationships. In chapter one, I explore the role of political attitudinal similarity in the attraction process. Using an experimental technique, I show that individuals evaluate politically similar strangers more favorably than they do politically dissimilar strangers. Participants are also more attracted to politically similar others and would prefer to spend time with and pursue relationships with others who share their political attitudes. In chapter two, I look at the role of political identity similarity in the attraction process. Using another experimental technique, I show that individuals expect relationships with politically similar others to be more satisfying and less conflictual than relationships with politically dissimilar others. Finally, in chapter three, I consider the role of political attitudinal similarity in non-marital romantic relationships. I show that the political attitudes of couples are more similar than we would expect by chance. Couples seem to be politically similar due to choice, not coincidental selection based on other characteristics or convergence of attitudes over time. Moreover, politically similar couples are more satisfied with their romantic relationships than politically dissimilar couples. Overall, I demonstrate that political phenomena influence the most intimate relationships humans pursue--dating and marriage. By uncovering an important role for politics in these very personal processes, I show that politics is much more fundamental to human behavior than political scientists currently assume, and that we would be wise to reconsider the way we study and measure political importance.
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  • In Copyright
  • Carsey, Thomas M.
  • Doctor of Philosophy
Graduation year
  • 2014

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