“PAP supporters, swipe left”: How GE 2020 Changed Friendships And Romance

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The 2020 general elections were not only an exercise in voting for the people whom you want in parliament, it seems, but also in your life as friends and partners.
Charles, 28, is on the prowl for a partner on dating apps like Tinder and Coffee Meets Bagel. While he appreciates that the elections have “provided a common topic to talk about”, he also thinks that it has made him realise that people are more uncommon from one another than he used to think.
“When I tell people that I’m a fan of the PAP, sometimes I get blocked immediately,” he grumbles. “Before the elections, this never happened.
“I’ve also seen some profiles which say, ‘PAP supporters, swipe left.'”
Of those who bat for a different party, most actually want to understand his beliefs and debate with him, Charles clarifies. But when that happens, his chats shift in tone. They go from flirty to dispassionate-from an episode of Too Hot To Handle to a paper written by the Institute of Policy Studies-and cautiousness creeps into the conversation.
“Once we enter PAP territory, it’s as if romance dies and my matches see me as a curiosity, some kind of fossil.
“But surely people can date beyond party lines?”
Actually, statistics say no.
A Pew Research Center study conducted in February this year found that 71% of respondents who identify as Democrats or have favourable opinions of the Democratic Party probably or definitely would not want to be in a relationship with someone who voted for Donald Trump. Conversely, 47% of Republicans or Republican-Party-leaning respondents share the same view on their Clinton-voting peers.
Things aren’t that different across the pond. Over in Europe, a survey that dating platform eHarmony ran discovered that differing opinions on the Brexit vote “led 1.6 million Brits either splitting up with their partner or failing to progress things with a date”.
Moreover, political affiliations do not only determine how well people get along with each other, according to a psychology study. People tend to rate potential dates as less attractive if they have different political viewpoints, even though-and this is the crucial part-“they do not actually perceive them as such”.
In other words, if someone who dislikes the Workers’ Party encountered Jamus Lim, in his previous life as an economics professor, they might find him irresistible. But in the context of the elections, their cognitive biases take over and they would tell themselves he is an ugly caricature of a politician even though he is, objectively speaking, the Vitruvian Man come to life.
The study concludes: “people may have rated targets as less attractive to convey their dislike because of [the targets’] support for a particular political candidate”.
Politics, then, is inextricable from the way we relate to people, down to the most fleeting of first impressions. A handsome face will not save you from being swiped left if you profess to support a political party that another dislikes.
As Charles himself admits: “Actually, I’m grateful for all the girls who list their political affiliation on their profiles-and there have been a lot lately because of the elections … I just swipe left. It saves me a lot of time.”
Extreme as it may sound, the scenario Charles describes is not unique, at least among the people to whom I spoke. Apart from affecting dating prospects, political views have driven a wedge between friends, some of whom have known each other for almost 10 years.
“It was quite shocking to see what some of my friends were saying [in my Whatsapp group chat],” Gina, a 30-year-old lawyer, says. “One accused Raeesah Khan of wanting to destabilise Singapore by importing Western ideas. Another defended Ivan Lim, saying that personality should not matter as long as he does his job well.”
“If that’s the case then we should give Harvey Weinstein a second chance,” she adds drily.
Gina grew so exasperated with w…
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