I recently read an article about Jewish matchmaking. I was not aware that such a thing still existed. Is this a universal Orthodox method? Is it enforced? Does a person have to accept the match made for them?
I live in a largely Orthodox community. My answer is a mix of my philosophy combined with the thinking of my kids' high school rabbis, whom, even after having graduated a few years ago, they still follow, to an extent.
The kids' rabbis as well as most shul rabbis in my neighborhood highly encourage the use of matchmakers as the sole means of setting up marriage prospects. A large part of this thinking stems from the idea of setting up a controlled environment where boys and gorls do not socialize in any format other than if they are st up for a shiduch / possible marriage prospect.
My wife and I met at a singles weekend. My kids attend a number of singles weekends, and, otherwise, date girls they meet in the neighborhood or at college. I know many people in my neighborhood who met their spouse on weekends or while studying in yeshiva or college.
So, in summary, nobody is enforcing the shidduch method, at least not in my community. And, as I know personally, one person, who tried a shidduch, and at the end, found her spouse on JDate. So, obviously, there is nothing that forces anyone to accept the matchmakers' recommendations.
I have no statistics on the marriage "longevity" rate of those that have used matchmakers vs. other methods (i.e., what percentage of such marriages stay that way without a divorce.) FWIW, a close friend of mine married via shidduch. Two years later, after having a baby, they split. But, instead of a clean divorce, the guy refused to give her a get, and she remained an aguna for about 15 years! So, there's no guarantee that matchmaking is a successful method.
It should already be clear that matchmaking is common among the orthodox. I just want to add (from personal experience) that at least one community, Lev Tahor, uses the closest possible to forced marriages.
There too, matchmaking is in principle practised, but instead of the involved parties' mutual research, matches are more or less* dictated by the leadership. The potential bride and groom generally** do not meet each other at all before the wedding.
Obviously, marriage cannot be completely forced within Jewish law***, as the bride has to acknowledge the betrothal somehow (usually accepting a ring), but practically, peer pressure and various punishments make it difficult to impossible for children of the community to reject a proposed marriage.
Leaving the community is usually not an alternative to a proposed marriage, as the community's children generally get married at a very young age, and are not educated enough to survive in the world outside of Lev Tahor.
Important: The conduct of Lev Tahor is the exception, rather than the norm, within the orthodox world.
*more or less: there have been cases of members pushing for specific matches.
**generally: there have been meetings when a match involved a party coming from outside the community.
***Except for yibum.