A group of former Trump aides is releasing a new invite-only conservative dating app called "The Right Stuff," backed by tech entrepreneur Peter Thiel. The app, launching this September, is pitching itself as being "all about getting into the right dating pool, with people who share the same values and beliefs as you." The nation has long been subdividing into narrower and narrower bands, but a conservatives-only dating app seems like it is taking our divisions to a whole new level. This raises the question: Is such a service development necessary?
The truth is that it's long been challenging for dating-age conservatives, especially in Washington, D.C. In 1977, the Washington Post's Judy Bachrach asked: "Can a woman be seen socially with a Republican and still survive? And would you want your sister to marry one?" Her answers: "very, very occasionally" and it had to be the "right sort," meaning "one who does not make it his business to suggest — at least not in public — that Eleanor Roosevelt was a pinko subversive." As for sisters, it was OK, provided that "she wants to spend the rest of her life in A-line skirts, sling-back pumps and Cincinnati, Ohio."
In 1992, the New York Times ran an article about Republican operative Mary Matalin dating Democratic campaign guru (and future husband) James Carville. The thesis was that in bipartisan relationships, "9 times out of 10, it is a Democratic man involved with a Republican woman." As George H.W. Bush aide Torie Clarke observed in the piece, Republican men are "galoshes and C-Span" types — earnest, nerdy, and likely to cite The Federalist Papers on a date.
Now, however, Republicans are not just embarrassing but ideologically unacceptable. A 2021 Generation Lab/Axios poll found that 71% of college Democrats would not date a Republican voter, while only 31% of college Republicans would not date a Democratic voter.
It's even harder for Republican men. A 2020 Pew poll found that only 41% of women would be willing to date someone who voted for the opposing candidate, while 67% of men were OK with someone who voted differently.
The objectors even look for clues revealing ideological deviationism. One rejectee complained to the Washingtonian that a woman lost interest after seeing conservative books on his bookshelf. After verifying that he was indeed conservative, "She was, like, 'I have to get out of here. I can't see you,' and left."
Dating apps seem to have exacerbated the problem. While the traditional dating apps may have helped millions of people find matches, they make it harder, not easier, for Republicans. Many dating apps promote a level of ideological conformity, asking users to add pronouns, affirm support for Black Lives Matter, or add a liberal special interest sticker to one's profile. These signals let users quickly swipe left at prospects showing any hint of conservatism.
The Right Stuff actively pushes back against its competitors. Its marketing materials tell participants, "No pronouns necessary." This should help conservatives find one another, but it won't solve the larger problem of bias against conservatives in the dating space. While prevailing attitudes demonstrate the need for such a service, it's also a shame that the current environment makes ideologically separate dating apps a necessity.