"Our results are perhaps the strongest evidence yet that people with more sexually conservative values, although they claim to act accordingly, are more sexually deviant in practice than their more sexually liberal peers," wrote the authors of a new study published in the journal Archives of Sexual Behavior July 12.
The study, titled "American Political-Party Affiliation as a Predictor of Usage of an Adultery Website," used two sources of data — voter registration rolls from five states in 2012 and payment records of the users of the website Ashley Madison that were leaked to the public in 2015 — to highlight correlations between how people defined themselves politically and whether or not they attempted to facilitate "extradyadic sexual activity" on the website whose tagline until 2016 was literally "Life is short. Have an affair."
Kodi B Arfer, a behavioral scientist at the University of California in Los Angeles, and Jason Jones, a sociologist at Stony Brook University in New York, authored the study, the Guardian reported.
"We used three data files from the [Ashley Madison] leak," they wrote in the study. "From CreditCardTransactions.7z, we obtained names, addresses, and ZIP codes for each credit card payment on AM from March 21, 2008, to June 28, 2015. We selected only successful payment transactions with an Address Verification System code that indicated both the address and the ZIP code had matched against what was on record for the card."
With the voter registration records from California, Florida, Kansas, New York and Oklahoma, the researchers "linked [Ashley Madison, or AM] users with voter registration records to determine how usage of AM could be predicted on the basis of political-party affiliation, gender, age, and state." The result was a survey that covered 80,000 people's behavior.
"Using two analytic strategies, one simple and one complex, we found that a registered voter's probability of spending money on [Ashley Madison] for something other than deleting their account — hence, apparently intending to cheat in a romantic relationship — varied substantially based on their political party. Libertarians were most likely to use [Ashley Madison], Democrats were least likely, and Republicans, Greens and unaffiliated voters were in between. This pattern mostly coincides with political conservatism, with members of more conservative or more right-wing parties using [Ashley Madison] more often."
The study found that, wherever they existed, registered Libertarians used Ashley Madison the most, at a rate of 1 in 300. Conservatives and unaffiliated voters had "intermediate" rates similar to each other. However, Greens used Ashley Madison more than Republicans in California and Florida, but not in New York. In all five states, Democrats used Ashley Madison the least, ranging from 1 in 750 in California to fewer than 1 in 1,500 in Oklahoma.
In August 2015, a group calling itself The Impact Team leaked a vast database of 33 million Ashley Madison accounts that included names, addresses, emails and information about users' sexual preferences, the Guardian reported at the time.
The study authors noted how their findings highlighted a sharp difference between the preached sexual politics of conservatives and their actual sexual tendencies. They offered some possible explanations, including that a lower knowledge of sexuality or a weak sexual education made people worse at sexual self-control, or that people "endorse conservative sexual attitudes strategically, rather than out of earnest belief." They speculated that perhaps people interested in taboo behavior, such as extramarital affairs, might try to deflect suspicion of them by taking a hard political line against those behaviors.
The authors dismissed suggestions such as the Freudian idea that unexpressed sexual desire builds up over time as "weak at best." However, they noted how their findings correlate with others, such as that US states whose populations show more conservative attitudes toward religion, sexuality and marriage also have higher subscription rates per capita to porn websites, and that more religious states had more Google searches for the word "sex" and more conservative states had more Google Images searches for "sex."