I had been wondering if political orientation or discrepancies in political orientation might be related to relationship quality. I think this is an interesting question in light of a close presidential election. Fortunately, I had access to some data on these variables from around 330 heterosexual married couples. I conducted some preliminary analyses this morning and the short story is a bunch of null findings.
Measures: Political orientation was measured on the “traditional seven-point scale” where 1=extremely liberal to 7 = extremely conservative (see Knight, 1999). Marital quality was measured using five items from the quality of marriage index (Norton, 1983). The internal consistencies were typical of this measure (alphas ≥ .90 for wives and husbands)
Descriptive Results: Husbands were slightly more conservative than wives (Husband Mean = 4.63, Wife Mean = 4.33, Pooled SD = 1.36; d = .22). Husbands and wives did not differ in terms of marital quality (Husband Mean = 4.26, Wife Mean = 4.25, Pooled SD = .83, d = .01). There was evidence of spousal similarity for political orientation (ICC = .54) and marital quality (ICC = .62). None of the zero-order correlations involving political orientation and marital quality were impressive or statistically significant (largest r = -.05).
Actor Partner Interdependence Model (APIM) Results: I squared the difference between political orientation scores from husbands and wives and used that score in a very basic dyadic model. I specified the APIM for interchangeable dyads with the exception of allowing for a mean-level difference in political orientation between wives and husbands. None of the relevant effects were statistically different from zero: Actor effect: .008 (SE = .023); Partner Effect: -.015 (SE = .023); Discrepancy Effect: -.013 (SE = .016). Thus, political orientation did not seem to matter for the individual’s report of marital quality or for her/his partner’s report of marital quality. The discrepancy did not seem to matter either.
A weakness is the single-item measure of political orientation and the fact that these couples had been together for a period of time (Average age of husbands was around 37 years versus 35 years for wives). Nonetheless, these initial results were not compelling to me. Darn! It would have made an interesting story. If anyone else has better data on this issue or more convincing results, let me know.