Forget bonding over a love of film noir, Stylist meets four women assessing potential dates on how they vote
Once, talking politics was anathema to passion and ‘never ask someone how they vote’ was an etiquette mantra we all adhered to. Scroll through Tinder, Happn, Once or Bumble today however, and you’re as likely to come across a declaration of political allegiance (‘No Tories please’ or ‘Lefties need not apply’) as you are a sarcastic one-liner or a career brag. Opportunities to find love, it seems, are suddenly being limited by where you put your cross on the ballot.
A glance at any Facebook feed proves that political discussion has reached an all-time high, especially among millennials. A Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition, Corbyn coup and wave of tax scandals have resulted in party battle lines being drawn and redrawn, leading many of us to become increasingly vocal about where we stand.
On dating site Bumble, you can now add a filter so that a potential partner knows your political affiliation as soon as they land on your profile. Or download the CandiDate app (where matches are based on political views) or try to find love on OKComrade, the left wing version of OKCupid.
Adam Hyde, editor of political news site Great British Politics, says, “Identity politics has been a key driver for young people of late and has strengthened the political dynamic to many relationships. Where once young people wouldn’t care if a potential boyfriend or girlfriend told them they voted for say, the Tories, the impression that political affiliation defines social groups is now an additional barrier to relationships.”
We’ve certainly become more assertive about who we support and why – especially since the last election. So is dating along political lines a faster, more accurate way to find love with a like-minded person? Or, as Stylist columnist Lucy Mangan, who has famously written about being a left-winger married to a ‘Toryboy’, worries, are we missing out on the chance of happiness with a potential partner who could broaden our minds? “Stating your politics as left or right and/or demanding the same from a potential partner seems quite an unnecessary closing off of your options,” says Mangan. “Dating someone of the opposite political persuasion doesn’t always make life the easiest or most harmonious but it does make it more interesting!”
As the EU referendum threatens, once again, to divide us into opposing camps, we speak to four women whose dating lives are dictated as much by their political leanings as by their penchant for walks on the beach.
“I’d swipe left on lefties”
Sarah Douglas, 27, Conservative voter and social media manager, Ealing, west London
“As you get older and start thinking about marriage and kids, it’s important to feel you have a similar viewpoint with a potential partner. For me, that probably means being in a relationship with a Tory voter. I don’t go out of my way to date Tories, I still believe you like who you like but I believe it makes life easier if you’re on the same page.
When I was younger, politics wasn’t so important or relevant, but now everyone is more politically engaged. In fact, the older I get, the more politics matters to me.
Most of my ex-boyfriends have actually been lefties and they’ve always felt pretty strongly about politics; the boyfriend I had at 19 was so left-wing we fought like cat and dog. Just watching the news became a minefield, because we argued about everything from party policies to private education. And that’s the thing. You’re less concerned with whether you want to educate your children privately when you’re younger, but it matters more to me now – although that’s not to say I spend every first date wondering whether we’ll be sending our children to private school!
I’m not saying I’d never go out with someone just because they supported Corbyn, but I can’t see us agreeing on much – and I don’t see how a date can be a success if you’re having a stand-up row in the pub. I tend to date friends of friends and, because these days I’ve a lot more Tory friends, I meet a lot more Tory-voters. My last boyfriend voted Conservative, but was far more right-wing than I am (I’m probably more right of centre) so we actually disagreed on quite a lot, politically.
What I’ve discovered, with hard-line lefties, is that they wouldn’t even consider dating a Tory, because it goes against everything they know. I’ve been in situations, often in the pub, and everyone’s chatting with an assumption you all feel the same politically. Then I’ll say, ‘Actually, I’m a Tory’, and suddenly everyone looks slightly shocked and disgusted. It seems to have become acceptable to say, ‘I hate Tories’ – which is daft because everyone knows right-wingers are better in bed…”
“I’m looking for Labour love”
Ellie Roberts, 27, Labour supporter and PhD student, Sheffield University
“My last girlfriend and I met on OKCupid. Neither of us had put anything political on our profiles, but after a few dates it transpired we had similar upbringings: both our parents were Labour supporters and came from lower middle-class backgrounds. It was part of the reason I was drawn to her; I assumed we’d both want and agree on a lot of similar things. Then one day we were watching a documentary about areas of Britain that had been hardest hit by the recession, and she made an off-hand comment about ‘benefit scroungers’. I was shocked. I tried to point out that not everyone on benefits is undeserving, but she wasn’t interested. The exchange knocked me sideways. I’d always thought she was this kind, understanding person, but suddenly I wasn’t so sure. Similarly, I once went on a date with a woman whose views I found incredibly naïve. It was a shock to realise not everyone is as socially aware as I’d assumed.
I also found it difficult when previous partners weren’t particularly supportive of LGBT people or politics. To some, prejudice is simply something that happens and you have to harden yourself to it, which I totally disagree with. It all led me to realise I needed to be more explicit regarding my views on my dating profiles. I now know I want to be with someone who feels as strongly as I do about LGBT rights as well as other issues such as the welfare state, education and the arts. So I added my views to my dating profile. I think it’s more honest to say so.
Sometimes, I worry that stating my position on political issues might incite abusive or insulting messages or people trying to ‘educate’ me in how I’m wrong – but, in the end, I think it’s worth the risk.”
“No opinions, no dates”
Beatrice Ray, 28, Labour supporter and casting assistant, Cambridge
“I love the idea of someone challenging my political standpoint – I wholeheartedly believe we should be more explorative with our views. However, the absolute deal breaker for me would be if someone didn’t vote at all.
As a woman, voting is especially important to me. Women lost their lives to get the vote, so I can’t understand why someone would take that opportunity for granted and not have their say. I have been out with a couple of people who haven’t voted and, unsurprisingly, it didn’t work out.
I understand that some people were brought up never to talk about politics. My family were the opposite. We were staunch Labour supporters and would frequently debate our views so that now it’s an ingrained part of my identity. I’m very vocal about my identity as a Labour supporter, which tends to deter the advances of anyone who isn’t – and I have to say I would find it very difficult to date a Tory or someone with fundamentally different political opinions. It’s not that I don’t believe it could work, I just don’t feel it’s something I could do personally. My political views are a part of who I am and I tend to get quite fired up by them, so it would just result in arguments.
When it comes to online dating, I use Guardian Soulmates to meet people, because it lets you choose a political stance as a way of filtering out potential partners – and that of course means you’re connecting with someone who is engaged in politics on at least a basic level. It might sound like you’re limiting options but to me it makes sense – if you can control other criteria, such as height and age, why not control something you feel as passionately about as politics?
That said, I once went on a date with someone who was, like me, a member of the Labour party, but wasn’t remotely open about it. I actually had to wheedle out of him the fact that he was quite an active member, which I thought was very strange. It seemed like a point of embarrassment for him, which was a real turn-off. You should be proud of your vote, and what you believe in.”
“I could never kiss a Tory”
Sara Gill, 29, Green voter and university administrator, London
“When I first signed up to Tinder, my profile featured a photo of me at an anti-austerity protest with the line ‘Could never (knowingly) kiss a Tory’. It’s a slightly doctored line I stole from a Los Campesinos song, but the sentiment remains. I think it would wheedle out any right-wing dates pretty quickly!
Politics is important to me and while healthy debate can be fun and mind-expanding, I’m not sure I could get serious with someone I disagreed with on important issues, such as women’s rights or climate change. In a relationship, you should feel like a team.
I’m a Green-voting socialist and while I’m not anti-wealth, the idea of being with someone who actively seeks to avoid paying tax or supports cuts for vulnerable people would massively turn me off. I’d see it as a sign they’re selfish and self- interested – and who’d want those qualities in a partner? I’m not sure I’d find common ground with someone who was politically apathetic either.
If I met someone who was loudly right-wing, it would be a non-starter. I’m not saying a relationship between, say, a Green and a Conservative couldn’t work, but someone’s politics offers a clue to how they see their place in the world and how others should be treated – and Greens and Tories don’t tend to share ideals.
I’m almost always the more politically minded in a couple. I’m aware that a passion for current affairs seems a bit geeky to some but it’s an important part of my identity. I tend to meet people through friends and I only have to chat to someone for a short time to find out if we share similar values. On a first date, though, I’d ensure there was some mutual attraction before unleashing my opinions.”
Words: Sarah Gooding, Alexandra Jones, Katie O’Malley, Georgie Lane-Godfrey