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Evidence abounds that Democrats and Republicans really do not like each other. Researchers have found that they avoid dating one another, desire not to live near one another and disapprove of the idea that their offspring would marry someone outside their party see hereherehere. Sure, most people are not very political, but among those who are, partisanship seems to be affecting nonpolitical realms of their lives. That phenomenon motivated a colleague and me to gather data about mixed-partisan marriages. We were curious: How many Americans are married to someone of the other party?
Who are these people? Are they old or young? Where do they live? Do they vote? To answer these questions, I teamed up with Yair Ghitza, chief scientist at Catalista prominent political data firm that sells data to left-of-center campaigns and interest groups, and also to academics like me who use the data for scholarly research. Catalist maintains a continuously updated database containing records of personal, political and commercial data for nearly all American adults. For simplicity, we mostly focused on male-female partners who live at the same address, share a last name, are within 15 years of age sorry, Donald and Melania Trumpand are the oldest such pair in the household.
We also cut the data in other ways, such as incorporating same-sex couples as well as couples who do not share a last name. In our research paperwe try out 32 different ways to define marriage in the data. For instance, if we include same-sex pairs and pairs with different last names, we are both more likely to count nonmarried people as married e.
How we define marriage affects the overall partisan composition of married couples i. First, 30 percent of married households contain a mismatched partisan pair. A third of those are Democrats married to Republicans. The others are partisans married to independents.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, there are twice as many Democratic-Republican pairs in which the male partner, rather than the female partner, is the Republican. Second, 55 percent of married couples are Democratic-only or Republican-only, which raises a question: Is that a big or a small ? In other words, is there more or less partisan intermarriage than we should expect?
Here are two ways we try to answer that. We can compare interparty marriages to interracial marriages. Using voter registration data, we can do this in three states, Florida, Louisiana and North Carolina, where public voter files list everyone by their party affiliation and their racial identity. In those states, 11 percent of married couples are in Democratic-Republican households. In comparison, only 6 percent of married couples are in any kind of interracial household. We also evaluate the degree of sorting through another exercise: Suppose that all of us choose partners from the pool of people who share our age and geographic location.
So, a year-old New Yorker seeks a spouse from the pool of other year-old New Yorkers. In the graph above, the bottom of the gray band indicates the percentage of couples that would be Democratic only left panel or Republican only right panel if people were pairing off randomly with regard to partisanship.
The top of the gray band reflects the percentage of couples that would be Democratic-only or Republican-only if partisans exclusively married people who share their party. And the blue and red lines show the actual percentage of same-party marriage for each age group in New York. The upshot — which is the same for every city we have explored — is that the red and blue lines fall close to the middle of the gray band. People sort into relationships with co-partisans, but not that much. Third, there is a much higher rate of mixed-partisan couples among younger pairs than older pairs.
The main reason for the dramatic relationship with age is that younger voters are more inclined to register as independents than older voters are. This was true 50 years ago, and it is true today.
As the chart shows, while the proportion of Democratic-independent and Republican-independent pairs shrinks from the youngest couples to the oldest couples, the proportion of Democratic-Republican pairs actually doubles — i.
Fourth, we looked at the neighborhoods where couples live. In this graph, we situate each voter in his or her neighborhood, and we look at the percentage of the vote in that neighborhood that went to President Obama in But the truth is that in these neighborhoods, half of the married couples living under the same roof are not one-party pairs.
In fact, except in overwhelmingly Democratic neighborhoods which tend to be African-American neighborhoodsclose to half of households are not Democratic-only or Republican-only. This is likely to contribute to a more tempered political climate in battleground areas than we might first expect. Finally, we looked at voter participation. Partisans married to like-partisans voted at much higher rates than partisans married to independents or to members of the opposite party. In the and general elections, a Republican married to a Republican was about 10 percentage points more likely to vote than the same kind of Republican e.
That effect is about twice as big as for a Democrat married to a Democrat. The effect is even bigger in primaries, especially in closed primaries where independent voters are not eligible to vote. In closed primaries, the partisans who are married to independents have especially low turnout compared with the same kind of partisans who are married within their party. In closed primaries in andDemocrats and Republicans were 17 to 18 percentage points less likely to vote if they were married to an independent, which is enormous considering that overall turnout in these elections is only 30 to 40 percent among registered partisans.
Why is there such a big effect on turnout? From this data alone, it is hard to say for sure. But it is likely a combination of two factors. First, voters who are not particularly interested in voting are probably more willing to be in mixed-partisan relationships. So their low engagement is not so much an effect of their mixed marriage as a contributing cause of that marriage. If your spouse is not going to vote in a primary because he or she is ineligible or does not care, you are probably more likely to skip voting too rather than walk to the polling place alone.
Almost all data about politics that you encounter comes from polls and surveys of individuals or else from analysis of geographic units such as precincts, counties and states. Individual data and geographic data do not capture the essential networks in which we all live — households and friendships and communities. But other and newer kinds of data — such as voter files that connect individuals to their households or network data that capture online connections — revolutionize how we understand politics. By the end of this election cycle, expect to see many more discoveries about the social groupings that define our lives.
Eitan Hersh is an assistant professor of political science at Yale University. Partisanship 66 posts Marriage Filed under Partisanship 66 posts Marriage Sorry, your blog cannot share posts by .Democrat dating a republican can it last
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Marriages Between Democrats and Republicans Are Extremely Rare