A Blog by Jonathan Low


Nov 4, 2018

Swipe Left, Swipe Right - Political Preferences Light Up Dating Apps

Nowhere to hide. JL

Kristina Peterson and Natalie Andrews report in the Wall Street Journal:

With younger people harder to reach through the traditional methods of landline phones and mail, political strategists are trying to reach the next generation where they are:online. With the midterms fast approaching, and young people less likely than those older to vote, apps and events used for finding romance are being deployed to entice fellow citizens to come to a polling station. Political conversations are fine on Tinder, said a spokeswoman, but political solicitation or advertising isn’t.
When New Yorker Jen Winston connected last month with Spencer from Georgia on Tinder, finding true love wasn’t her priority.
“Why are you so far away from me?” Spencer messaged Ms. Winston on the swipe-based dating app.
“Absence makes the heart grow fonder,” she replied. “Anyway, are you voting for Stacey Abrams?” she asked, referring to the Democratic candidate for governor of Georgia.
With the midterms fast approaching, and young people generally less likely than those older to vote, apps and events typically used for finding romance are instead being deployed by those who want to entice their fellow citizens to come to a polling station.
Ms. Winston, a writer and speaker, realized a few weeks ago she could change her location to chat with voters in swing states, even if hers wasn’t the pickup line most expected.
She said she has swiped right and matched with 18 people in states with high-stakes races, including in Nevada, Arizona and North Dakota, as well as Georgia. So far, no romance has blossomed, but “most people have been saying that they’re voting, and that’s exciting,” Ms. Winston said.
Phoenix-area resident Sarah Lasker sought out eligible swing voters on the dating app Bumble, seeking to promote Democratic Rep. Kyrsten Sinema’s tight race in Arizona against GOP Rep. Martha McSally for an open Senate seat. Some responded appreciatively. Others sent photos of themselves wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat, a sign that her attempts to politically woo them weren’t successful.
With younger people harder to reach through the traditional methods of landline phones and mail, political strategists are trying to reach the next generation where they are: online and looking for love. Dating apps typically don’t take much time or money, always a boon for campaigns and less-official volunteers.
David Goss, the founder of TrumpSingles.com, a dating site for supporters of President Trump, said Democrats are welcome to use the site if they are there for romance and not to troll political opponents. Trump-supporting suitors “might not reciprocate the same way, but you’re more than welcome to come try,” he said.
Most of his success stories came from Trump supporters looking for love in big cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York that tend to tilt more liberal, he said. “It takes the entire ocean of fish and brings it down to a lake,” he said, “so you’re not wasting time and money on dates where someone will tell them they don’t want to see them again just because they’re a Trump supporter.”
One woman emailed Mr. Goss to say she had recently gone on a date with someone she met on the site that included a visit to a shooting range, dinner and a movie. “Having two Trump supporters go to a shooting range on a first date was very Trumpish,” Mr. Goss said.
In Colorado, which has tight elections this year as well as a particularly long and complex ballot, one civic education group created a “speed dating” event where bumper stickers were exchanged in lieu of phone numbers. No one was expecting any sparks to fly—the organizers just liked the setup of the 1990s-style dating events. After quick introductions to the issues, people could pause and ask questions or move on, eventually meeting proponents on both sides.
Beth Graham sipped on free beer at the Great Divide Brewing Company in Denver as she went from table to table checking out the prospects. After talking for a few minutes with one particularly intriguing man, she didn’t want to leave without his information.
“Can I get your pamphlet?” Ms. Graham, who runs a video production company, asked Carson Priest, a political operative promoting a measure raising the sales tax to pay for new roads.
Ben Luke, an assistant producer in London, learned about Ms. Winston’s Tinder strategy when one of his friends retweeted her. Even though he is a British citizen and ineligible to vote in the U.S., he decided to follow her lead. “It was about 10 p.m. at night and there wasn’t much on TV, so I started doing it,” said Mr. Luke, who closely followed the confirmation fight over Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
Impressed by Sen. Heidi Heitkamp’s “no” vote on Justice Kavanaugh, Mr. Luke used Tinder to seek out matches in Ms. Heitkamp’s home state of North Dakota, where the Democrat faces a difficult re-election race.
“Kyra, you look like the type of sophisticated, refined person that is going to vote for Heidi Heitkamp,” he messaged, according to screenshots of his Tinder campaign.
“Ew,” she responded. “Why would you say that? You have definitely hurt my feelings. Trump would not approve.”
A woman named Jessi responded to a similar opening line, “If I were a North Dakota resident I would be!” It turned out she was deploying the same methods as Mr. Luke—from New York.
Mr. Luke said as midnight approached and after encountering “a few quite ardent Trump supporters…I thought maybe best call it a day.”
Rebecca Davis, founder of a left-leaning activist group in New York, organized a night of “Tinderbanking” focused on state politics earlier this year. At one point in the evening, a man contacted over Tinder was so enthused over the effort that he asked to join it.
“About 20 minutes later, he walked through the door,” she said, noting he chatted all night with the woman who had contacted him. “He sat down next to her, so who knows?” she said. “For all I know, they’re in the throes of some rom-com moment.”
One female Los Angeles resident added a message in October to her profile that “only voters get access” to her and told nonvoters to “kindly swipe left on me as you are doing on our country’s future.”
She said her matches have “decreased significantly” but that she has connected with at least three people who could lead to future romance. “I’m only matching with voters,” she said. “I’m really not interested in spending time with people that are not willing to show up.”
Political conversations are fine on Tinder, said a spokeswoman for the Match Group Inc. -owned app, but political solicitation or advertising isn’t. Users can report people for violating the terms of service, and some have been banned for campaigning, she said.
At least one congressional campaign this cycle has tapped Tinder in its efforts to connect with younger voters. Suraj Patel, a Democrat who unsuccessfully challenged Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D., N.Y.) in the state’s June primary, held a night of “Tinderbanking” with his volunteers before the primary.
“We realized Tinder and other dating apps are places where people are already primed for a conversation with strangers,” said Anjelica Triola, his chief strategist. “It’s not as invasive as getting a phone call from somebody you don’t know.”
The Patel campaign’s volunteers fanned out across dating apps, with those who are straight favoring Tinder and those who are gay heading for Grindr, she said. The volunteers asked their matches if they needed an absentee ballot or help finding their polling place, she said. “It was a diverse group of millennials doing a diverse millennial thing.”
No one asked to block or deactivate any of the volunteers’ accounts, Ms. Triola said. “Someone reaching out to ask you if you’re registered to vote is probably the sweetest thing that can happen to you on dating apps,” she said.


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