For young people, online dating can already be a politically fraught process. But now, online dating has entered a new frontier: partisan politics.
Last week, the group HelpsGood—a "boutique digital shop" based in Los Angeles—launched an Android app that allows users to find potential partners based on political ideology.
The idea for the app was conceived at Causathon, a hackathon targeted at nonprofit organizations. HelpsGood developed the app in partnership with Rock the Vote, a group trying desperately to get more 18-to-29-year-olds engaged in politics.
The app brands itself as Tinder for politics. Tinder is a popular dating app that allows users to "swipe" through photos and short descriptions of other users looking to date, or just casually hook up. Swipe right for yes, left for no.
The new app, called candiDate, matches users by how well their political views align. Instead of answering questions about your taste in movies or self-grooming habits, candiDate asks users questions like, "Do you support building the Keystone XL pipeline?" and, "In order to balance the budget, do you support an income tax increase on any tax bracket?"
"The goal was to create something that would inspire more young people to register to vote," candiDate's site reads. "Over 50% of 18-29-year-old eligible voters aren't registered so we created a fun dating app that also gets them engaged with the political process."
In the site's FAQ, the app's makers anticipate a user hypothetically asking, "Why shouldn't I just use Tinder?" Its answer: "candiDate connects you to someone who shares your beliefs, values, and positions on core issues. We're all about what's going on above your waist—if you're focused on the other kind of positions, we recommend Tinder."
The enthusiasm of the app's makers is endearing, but it's hard to imagine users electing to use candiDate instead of Tinder or another politically agnostic dating service. Most Americans say they don't particularly care if their partner is of the same political persuasion.
A 2012 Match.com survey found that just 17 percent of men and 20 percent of women said they "must have" someone of the same political party. And, as Megan McArdle wrote at the time, there is some benefit to bipartisan dating. In the high-stakes world of dating, beggars can't be choosers.
"It's hard enough to find someone who is attractive, good to you, and fun to be around," McArdle wrote. "Why on earth would you make it harder by refusing to consider anyone whose opinion on the relative merits of national health care programs differs from yours?"
So, perhaps the best way to get millennials more engaged in politics isn't dumbing it down for them, filtering their political values through the lens of a hookup app.
Yes, one's political beliefs may be a good measure by which partners can suss out shared values. But, unless your entire personal identity hinges on partisan politics, you probably won't hit the download button.
Correction: This original story overstated the role Rock the Vote played in developing the app. HelpsGood launched the app in partnership with Rock the Vote.
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