“You are Republican,” your Facebook algorithm whispers in your ear. “You are a Democrat,” your social circle chants. “You don’t just believe in those political ideas; they are who you are,” the world murmurs. Taking a side and defending it has become the norm in our society. Being with others like us feels safe, comfortable, protected from critique. But when we’re in a place where we separate from others, where we only hear, “Yes, you’re right,” we stagnate and fail to grow. Our political substitute identities leave us self-righteous, angry, and unable to cope with life’s reality: not everyone is like us, sees things the way we do, or wants the same things we do. If our happiness depends on being isolated from differing opinions, it is a false happiness.
In 2016, data scientists Eitan Hersh and Yair Ghitza analyzed data among registered voters to determine how often Democrats and Republicans married. They learned that 30 percent of couples were politically mixed, meaning they did not share the same party identification. However, most of those mixed marriages were between Independents and a spouse registered as Republican or Democrat. Only 9 percent of marriages were between Democrats and Republicans. That number has worsened. In 2020, the American Family Survey saw that only 21 percent of marriages were politically mixed, and fewer than 4 percent were between Democrats and Republicans. The indications are that we tend to only have deep friendships with those who share our political ideology.
In 1958, Gallup Research asked respondents, “‘If you had a daughter of marriageable age, would you prefer she marry a Democrat or Republican, all other things being equal?’ The results: 18% of Americans said they would prefer their daughter to marry a Democrat, 10% preferred a Republican, and the majority didn’t care.” When Gallup asked the same question in 2016, the number of those who cared nearly doubled: “28% of respondents said they preferred their child to marry a Democrat and 27% a Republican.”
In 2017, after Trump won the presidential election, 10 percent of Americans ended a romantic relationship because of different political views.
Politics are divisive no matter what country you live in. England has been split over Brexit (leaving the European Union). France has been divided over immigration policies. And South Korea has massive political division between its younger and older residents and between those in urban and rural environments.
Let’s make this personal. What would your reaction be if you learned a close friend of yours voted for a different presidential candidate than you in each of the past three elections? How would you feel if you walked into a new friend’s home and MSNBC was on the TV in their living room? How about Fox News? How would it impact your friendship?
We long to be around those who validate our opinions and share our worldview. It’s not surprising, then, that our political allegiances have a significant impact on our friendships.