Political inter-marriage

So, here’s a pretty cool analysis over at 538— a look at party registration within marriages from a vast dataset.  Here’s the key chart:

hersh-marriage-1

The article itself frustrates me, though, as it does not even raise the issue of partisan leaners and simply treats all Democratic-Independent marriages as “mixed marriages.”  Now, that’s an obvious limit of party registration data, but they could at least admit that many of these registered independents have strong partisan inclinations, that probably match their spouse more often than not.  Their takeaway is that 30% of couples have a mismatch, but my take is that only 9% have a true mis-match (3% + 6% from the bottom left and upper right corners).  To me, that less than 10% of households have 1 Democratic spouse and 1 Republican spouse is what is most interesting and compelling about this data.

They also take a look at the data to find that the longer couples have been married, the more agreement there is, captured in this chart:

hersh-marriage-3

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.e., the purple band becomes bigger.

At least a decade ago or so I was on a conference panel with Laura Stoker, who has worked extensively with the famous political generations dataset (they actually interviewed the same people multiple times over the course of their lives).  I remember her presenting results that showed that married couples influence each other over time and tend to become more alike in their politics.

Anyway, pretty interesting stuff.  You will be unsurprised to learn my marriage is in the top left corner.  I literally could not imagine being in the top right (where one of my colleagues at work is).

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About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State http://faculty.chass.ncsu.edu/shgreene

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