The news: It's natural that people are attracted to others with similar political beliefs. After all, arguing about fiscal policy doesn't make for sexy bedroom conversation. But it looks like there might be a scientific reason for why you're into your politically like-minded partner (or repulsed by those of opposing views): his or her body odor.
That's what a new Brown University study published by the American Journal of Political Science finds. To test the theory, researchers collected odor samples from 21 strong liberals and conservatives and asked 125 volunteers to rate their attractiveness based on the smell. The result: Even though the study participants smelled the same exact samples, they responded very differently based on their political alignment:
In one particularly illustrative case, a participant asked the experimenter if she could take one of the vials home with her because she thought it was "the best perfume I ever smelled"; the vial was from a male who shared an ideology similar to the evaluator. She was preceded with another respondent with an ideology opposite to the person who provided the exact same sample; this participant reported that the vial had "gone rancid" and suggested it needed to be replaced.
"People could not predict the political ideology of others by smell if you asked them, but they differentially found the smell of those who aligned with them more attractive," said lead author Dr. Rose McDermott in a news release. "So I believe smell conveys important information about long-term affinity in political ideology that becomes incorporated into a key component of subconscious attraction."
What does this mean? While the researchers found a pretty strong correlation between odor preference and political alignment, that doesn't preclude other explanations. After all, previous studies have found links between body odor and other attractive qualities in a romantic partner, such as social compatibility and genetic dissimilarity.
Still, it's interesting to think about what kind of olfactory signals you're transmitting to potential partners, and whether your aversion to certain political beliefs creates a physical response. Maybe that person on the bus didn't have a serious body-odor problem — they just had radically different political beliefs from you.