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When It Comes to Politics, the Nose Knows

In the endless search to make sense of American politics, scientists have determined that smell matters.

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Individuals who are attracted to the body odor of others (including spouses), it turns out, are more likely to share their political and ideological views.

This from a new study (“Assortative Mating on Ideology Could Operate Through Olfactory Cues”) published in the American Journal of Political Science.

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The three authors of the study write that olfaction — the sense of smell — “correlates in specific ways with differing political preferences through genetic and biological mechanisms similar to those employed in choice of sexual partners.”

The study, published just as the midterm election season heats up, has attracted lots of media attention, with stories generally featuring provocative headlines ( Washington Post: “Liberals smell better to other liberals than to conservatives”) and illustrations (like  this photograph of a man and woman enjoying each other’s close presence).

But there is the possibility that odd political bedfellows, as they grow older, may be more likely to become bedfellows. “As we get older, our olfactory function declines,” a 2006 study in the Postgraduate Medical Journal reported. “Not only do we lose our sense of smell, we lose our ability to discriminate between smells.” The authors of the study found that more than three-fourths of people over the age of 80 have an impaired sense of smell.

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Older Americans, studies show, are more likely to vote than younger Americans. The new research suggests that they may also be more likely to form bipartisan alliances — and, we can only suppose, dalliances.


Credit: Promo image – leschnyhan/iStock


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