Republicans have sex more often than Democrats and have extramarital affairs less often, according to a leading family studies scholar.
Writing on the blog of the Virginia-based Institute for Family Studies, Nicholas H. Wolfinger, a professor of sociology at the University of Utah, explained that he and his colleague, W. Bradford Wilcox, explored political differences in family life in a previous blog. They found that Republicans, who are more likely to be churchgoers, tend to have happier marriages than Democrats. This particular finding left him "curious about specific components of relational bliss that might be affected by political leanings."
He arrived at a surprising answer: Republicans have sex more frequently than Democrats and are less likely to cheat on their spouses.
Wolfinger used 25 years of data from the General Social Survey, an omnibus survey that has been conducted once a year or every two years since 1972. He relied on the following survey question about sex: "About how often did you have sex during the last 12 months?"
Fifty-three percent of his sample reported having sex at least once a week and this was especially true of Republicans and independents, according to the data.
The main reason that Republicans have more frequent sex is because they are more likely to be married, "and anyone with a live-in relationship has more sex than does an otherwise comparable single person," Wolfinger wrote, referencing the book by Maggie Gallagher and Linda Waite, The Case for Marriage: Why Married People are Happier, Healthier and Better Off Financially.
"Americans with four-year college degrees are far less likely to have weekly sex — about a quarter less likely, according to the GSS," Wolfinger wrote, a finding he considered weird. And independents are less likely to have college degrees than are either Democrats or Republicans.
The effects of party identification on marital infidelity are difficult to understand, the scholar continued, noting that Democrats and independents cheat on their spouses at the same rates. By contrast, Republicans have "starkly lower" rates of infidelity, he said.
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"Republicans have 23% lower odds of cheating than do Democrats. The adultery gap between independents and Republicans is nearly as large."
The reason for these gaps center mostly on two things: marital status and church attendance.
"Given the strong association between marital status and party identification, it's not surprising that current marital status can help explain the association between political beliefs and being in or having been in an adulterous union," Wolfinger explained.
"Church attendance also has predictable effects on the relationship between adultery and party ID. Republicans go to church more, and churchgoers cheat less."
The main driver behind the political gap regarding adultery is driven by the 31 percent of party affiliates who identify as "strong" Democrats. While it is possible that some of these Democrats may hold different ideas regarding sex than other Americans, this is abetted by the General Social Survey question: "Have you ever had sex with someone other than your husband or wife while you were married?" That likely means adultery most of the time but the language does not rule out polyamorous relationships or other kinds of "consensual nonmonogamy."
Yet, it is also possible that Republicans might be more inclined to lie about adultery than Democrats, he noted.