The Journal of Politics


The Politics of Mate Choice

John R. Alforda1, Peter K. Hatemia2, John R. Hibbinga3, Nicholas G. Martina4 and Lindon J. Eavesa5

a1 Rice University

a2 University of Sydney

a3 University of Nebraska-Lincoln

a4 Queensland Institute of Medical Research

a5 Virginia Commonwealth University


Recent research has found a surprising degree of homogeneity in the personal political communication network of individuals but this work has focused largely on the tendency to sort into likeminded social, workplace, and residential political contexts. We extend this line of research into one of the most fundamental and consequential of political interactions—that between sexual mates. Using data on thousands of spouse pairs in the United States, we investigate the degree of concordance among mates on a variety of traits. Our findings show that physical and personality traits display only weakly positive and frequently insignificant correlations across spouses. Conversely, political attitudes display interspousal correlations that are among the strongest of all social and biometric traits. Further, it appears the political similarity of spouses derives in part from initial mate choice rather than persuasion and accommodation over the life of the relationship.

(Online publication May 13 2011)


John R. Alford is Associate Professor of Political Science at Rice University, Houston, Texas 77251.

Lindon J. Eaves is the Distinguished Professor of Human Genetics and Psychiatry, Virginia Institute for Psychiatric and Behavioral Genetics, Richmond, Virginia 23219.

Peter K. Hatemi is a Research Fellow at the United States Studies Centre, University of Sydney.

John R. Hibbing is the Foundation Regents Professor of Political Science and Psychology at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Lincoln, Nebraska 68588.

Nicholas G. Martin is the Senior Principal Research Fellow at the Queensland Institute of Medical Research, Brisbane, Australia.