A Tinder survey suggests 20-somethings around the world are open to interracial relationships. But what people say and what they do can be very different.
Tinder just released the results of a survey on interracial dating — and the findings seem hopeful.
Respondents were 4,244 people (not just Tinder users) ages 24 to 25 living in the US, the UK, Australia, and France. As many as 63% said they've felt more confident about dating people from different races or ethnicities when online dating.
And 66% said that online dating services have made it easier to meet potential partners of a different race or ethnicity. As for Tinder users specifically, 79% say they've been on a date with someone of a different race, compared to 62% of non-Tinder users.
We could applaud Tinder and other online dating services for broadening users' horizons and for bringing together perfectly compatible people who happen to have different racial backgrounds. But the survey focused on people's attitudes toward interracial dating and their own assessments of their behavior — not on their actual behavior.
Data from OKCupid, described in a 2014 blog post, suggests that people's attitudes and behavior around interracial dating can differ, drastically.
OKCupid found that, among its users, the number of people who said they strongly preferred to date someone of their own race dropped from roughly 40% to roughly 30% between 2008 and 2014.
But as OKCupid founder Christian Rudder wrote, in that same time frame, "OKCupid users are certainly no more open-minded than they used to be. If anything, racial bias has intensified a bit."
Consider: In 2009, Asian men on OKCupid rated black women, on average, 16% less attractive than the average woman. In 2014, Asian men rated black women 20% less attractive.
A recent NPR article described the racial discrimination many people still face while online dating. One black woman in her late 20s said she met a white man on Tinder, and when they went on a date, "He was like, 'Oh, so we have to bring the 'hood out of you, bring the ghetto out of you!'"
Here's where things get even more complicated.
A recent paper, by Josué Ortega at the University of Essex in the UK and Philipp Hergovich at the University of Vienna in Austria, suggests that online dating should increase the number of interracial relationships.
The researchers reached their conclusion by creating upwards of 10,000 randomly generated societies. Then they simulated the connections made through online dating in each society. "Our model predicts nearly complete racial integration upon the emergence of online dating, even if the number of partners that individuals meet from newly formed ties is small," the authors write in the paper.
The authors of that study note that the number of interracial marriages in the US has, in fact, increased substantially since online dating became a popular way to meet people — though they can't say for sure that online dating caused the increase.
Ultimately, whether we should label certain dating preferences "racist" is tricky. As the woman in the NPR article said, "I feel like there is room, honestly, to say, 'I have a preference for somebody who looks like this.' And if that person happens to be of a certain race, it's hard to blame somebody for that."
She added: "But on the other hand, you have to wonder: If racism weren't so ingrained in our culture, would they have those preferences?"