The 2012 election heats up to a frenzy as the country is divided between red and blue states, conservative and liberal. vBut the personal may not always be the political, based on recent data released by InterracialDating.com, an online dating service that specializes in connecting people who choose "character above color."
It turns out that some of the reddest of red states have the highest number seeking interracial relationships. Ten out of the site's top 20 states with the most populous members have historically voted Republican over the past five presidential elections.
States like Texas, Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama, South Carolina, Louisiana and Indiana historically vote Republican and tend to be socially conservative--not exactly fertile ground for people openly and un-apologetically stating their non-conformist dating preferences. Most of these states vehemently opposed interracial marriage during the riotous Civil Rights era, with Alabama, the last holdout, formally legalizing it as late as the year 2000.
"The high interest in interracial dating might be a surprise because of a perceived disapproval of interracial relationships in the Deep South where racial tensions seem deeply ingrained in the psyche and culture of the people who live there," says Christelyn D. Karazin, co-author of "Swirling: How to Date, Mate, and Relate, Mixing Race, Culture and Creed," and publisher for the popular interracial dating blog, Beyond Black & White.
Karazin recently appeared on CNN's "HLN Weekend Express with Natasha Curry" discussing historically "swirl-friendly" areas most accepting of interracial couples. Predictably, these places were along typically liberal coastal cities like Los Angeles, New York, and Seattle with pockets of swirl-friendly places in the Midwest and the western portion of Texas. So are people in red states too socially conservative to widely accept interracial relationships?
Laura Noble, 46, a black woman who lives in Virginia (Number 8 on the list) says, "As a black conservative, I posit that the media has a vested interest in portraying all conservatives as racists and all liberals as open-minded when in my experience, that is not the truth. I think that many conservatives are stereo-typically misrepresented in their interest of other races, and their geographic location may be more racially homogeneous, therefore if they want to date outside their race, they need to do it online."
This new data may indicate that there's a higher interest in interracial dating in red states than is perceived on the surface because of it's anonymity and ubiquitousness. "The demand is there because it might be harder for people to gauge who might be open to dating interracially," says Rob Thompson, founder of InterracialDating.com. "Online dating gives people the ability to seek out like-minded people more easily than it would be face to face."
Shaun Brown, 26, of Richmond, Virginia, plans to vote for Mitt Romney on November 6. He's white, his girlfriend is black. Brown thinks that the legacy of slavery, fear and mistrust keeps people in Southern (and historically red) states from openly expressing their interest in interracial dating. "The media narrative for the past 40-50 years is that all conservatives care about themselves and their white friends and don't like black people. We're drilled from grade school and beyond that as a white person, your people oppressed black people. It makes you a bit reluctant to approach a woman for fear that you might be rejected. With online dating, you don't have that fear or anxiety of wondering if you ask a girl out on a date she would say, 'Oh no I could never date you because you're white."
*State rankings based on member registrations since 2008.