Politics & partners

I’ve argued that political philosophies differ in what role they see emotions playing in public life. While I suspect these differences spill over from (or into?) private life emotional styles to some extent, overall I would expect more emotional overlap in private than public.

While it’s not direct evidence, I thought a recent survey by Essential Research on qualities people seek in a partner by political affiliation was interesting. Out of 13 possible qualities respondents were asked to select the three they saw as most important (table under the fold).

With differences in order and rating, the Coalition, Labor and Green supporters all seek the same top five qualities: honesty and integrity, kind and considerate, sense of humour, similar interests, and caring friend.

The most surprising difference between them is that Greens (66%) are much less likely than Coalition (81%) or Labor (79%) supporters to put ‘honesty and integrity’ in their top three. The most sanctimonious group in public life is the most forgiving of moral failure in private life. Or perhaps Green supporters are just on average younger, and less likely to have felt the sting of romantic betrayal.

The Greens are significantly more likely than supporters of other parties to value a partner who has a sense of humour, is intellectually stimulating and is adventurous and challenging. Labor voters are more likely than Liberals or Greens to look for someone who is a good lover, and perhaps as a logical consequence are also more likely to want someone who would be a good parent (especially compared to Greens, though probably an age thing again).

qualities in partner2
(sorry the image is blurred – try this)

In another blow to the argument that people are too obsessed with money, none of the groups is much concerned with financial security.

And though Labor voters are more interested in good lovers than others, across the whole sample neither looks (15%) nor sex (16%) rate that highly.

Perhaps we are not as superficial as social critics suppose.

10 thoughts on “Politics & partners

  1. Dave – I was surprised that the family and friends question didn’t do better, but perhaps this survey wasn’t very well designed for its purpose. The qualities that come out on top are to do with what helps two people who spend large amounts of time together do so smoothly. Those are probably the most important qualities to maintain a relationship, even if other things are important too for overall quality of life. If respondents had been asked to rate each quality from 1 to 10, the rank order would probably be similar but the qualities would not be so far apart in absolute terms.


  2. have to agree with caf. these surveys are hard to take seriously for the reasons he posits. I think all they suggest is that these are the qualities that people know will make them look good to rate more highly.


  3. btw this fits in with the differences re the greens. the greens are on average less socially conventional and therefore marginally less likely to say what is expected of them.


  4. I have to agree with caf and Jason. A revealed preference type survey, while more difficult to conduct, would I think yield different results.


  5. Most partnered people are not especially good looking (a revealed preference), and anyone looking for a long-term relationship knows that their partner will almost certainly suffer a decline in their looks as they age, so I think the ‘physical attractiveness’ ranking is plausible.

    On the other hand, for men financial security does correlate with relationship success, though the qualities that lead to financial security are probably attractive in their own right as well.


  6. I bet people are just unwilling to admit (or maybe don’t even know) how much they care about appearance. I remember reading a psych study a while back where they manipulated the appearance of an accomplice before getting them to ask subjects out on date. Needless to say, it made a huge impact on acceptance.

    People are programmed to signal concern about certain traits (honesty for example) to show how how upstanding and reliable they are, but I doubt that those traits are as important as they think in determining their actual choices.


  7. Andrew@3
    For me at least (and call me a over-the-top ideologue if you like), strong disagreement in political opinion, or having to keep opinions to myself, would be explosive.


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