Twelve weeks after its rocky launch, conservative dating app The Right Stuff is still failing to seduce large numbers of right-wing users.
In October, the Peter Thiel-backed startup managed to generate 40,000 downloads, according to data from the analytics firm Sensor Tower. But between Nov. 1 and Dec. 20, that figure dropped to just 11,000 downloads.
Appfigures, another analytics firm, offered slightly more favorable estimates, though with the same downward trajectory: roughly 44,000 downloads in October, and 17,000 in the seven weeks since.
The app, cofounded by former Trump administration official John McEntee, continues to face an onslaught of negative reviews and criticism from its target demographic: young conservatives. Its intense verification process—intended to foster a sense of exclusivity and weed out potential trolls—has made it inoperable for many users.
“I downloaded this app more than two months ago, even got sent a package from them to become an ambassador, and STILL have not been accepted onto the app. That’s ridiculous and unacceptable,” read one review posted on Dec. 19.
Another person blasted the invite-only business model.
“How can someone in a heavily liberal area get an invite… Most people around this area wouldn’t download this app, much less send an invite,” this user wrote. “Rather dumb.”
The reviews mirror the sentiment of some young female conservatives in Washington.
“I mean, I don’t know anyone on the app. Don’t think it’s going great,” an influential conservative staffer in Washington, D.C., told The Daily Beast. She added that the company made a mistake launching in the D.C. market, “especially with a Democrat administration.”
The Right Stuff currently holds a rating of 2.5 stars in the App Store, with nearly 1,200 reviews. Some of the negative feedback has seemingly come from bogus users, like one person who left a review in November under the name SisterFister9k, declaring that, “I don’t trust anything that wants to look through my phone and tries to invade MY privacy.” Other, more credible, comments have complained about the company’s requests to access phone contact lists.
Representatives for The Right Stuff did not respond to requests for comment.
Months after its launch, the dating app still isn’t available on the Google Play store, which would give Android phone owners the opportunity to join the site.
Conservative activist Michael Butler, an Android user, told The Daily Beast he still doesn’t have access. “I understand that iPhone users are the priority because they're a larger segment of the population,” he said. But he noted that the company was present at Turning Point USA’s most recent winter conference in Arizona in mid-December, where they “ran out of hats and hoodies.”
Even before its launch, The Right Stuff hit roadblocks. Despite recruiting Ryann McEnany—younger sister of former Trump White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany—to promote the startup, conservatives in D.C. told The Daily Beast last fall they were concerned the app would be hijacked by trolls, or would simply match them with people they already knew.
“It’s all of Mitch McConnell’s staffers,” one female Republican operative said at the time.
Another issue: A dating service named “The Right Stuff” already existed, though without the right-wing political bent. That company’s founder, Dawne Touchings, told The Daily Beast in September that she planned to have her lawyer contact the Thiel-backed app about the issue. (Neither Touchings nor her lawyer responded to emails seeking an update on the situation.)
The turbulence persisted after the app went live. Social media quickly took notice of its writing prompts for users, such as “a random fact I love about America,” and “January 6th was...”
Online trolls, kept off the platform itself, instead mocked the startup through App Store reviews. “I’ve found so many perfect women on here, and the best part [is] that they’re all white!” one person wrote on Oct. 7. “I found my current girlfriend on this app, and she is just perfect. We’ve been dating for 1 1/2 years now, but we’ve been related for 18.”
Since its launch, The Right Stuff has also been forced to battle new competition. Cuffed, another right-wing dating app—which debuted this past summer—is led by conservative activist and survivor of the 2018 Stoneman Douglas High School shooting Kyle Kashuv. Although Cuffed remains in a beta-testing phase, it’s still one more threat the company will have to fend off.
For the moment, The Right Stuff’s bigger issue is generating interest to begin with. “Lol, someone I know who’s a liberal got on it…and [they] made a troll profile,” another conservative female staffer in Washington, D.C., told The Daily Beast. As for real conservatives, she added, “Haven’t heard of anyone using [it].”