To Marry For Love Or Politics?

With the end of Maria Shriver and Arnold Schwarzenegger's relationship, we've lost one of our most famously mismatched political couples. (Now the pressure's really on Mary Matalin and George Carville to stay together.)

According to a new study, we aren't likely to see many more of these unions, since most people marry within their own political party. Political scientists at the University of Nebraska analyzed data from a study of 30,000 American relatives, and 5,180 married couples, that was conducted in the '80s. The information is dated, but there aren't many political surveys that include information on spouse's beliefs.

They found that in all cases, people tend to pick a mate who is similar. This was true for variables like appearance and personality, but lead author John Hibbing found that these factors don't "seem as important to us as our notions of how other people should behave and the way society should be structured." Spouses were even more likely to have similar education levels and views on religion and politics. Among political issues, couples had the most similar opinions on school prayer, abortion, and gay rights.

There are several possible explanations for this. Similar political beliefs may be part of the reason people get together or husbands and wives may come from similar backgrounds. The researchers thought spouses may be influencing each other's political beliefs, but they found this was less likely. Couples had similar beliefs when they first got married, and years later, they weren't more likely to agree politically.

Hibbing says Fox News watchers pairing off while Rachel Maddow fans stick together may not be a good thing for the country. "These tendencies to have these kinds of selections both in media exposure, who we live with, who we sleep with, if you will, may diminish the chance of getting opposing points of view," he said. On the other hand, it's easy to see the appeal of not having to argue with a Republican before you've even gotten out of bed in the morning.