There’s a reason more liberals shop at Trader Joe’s

New research shows that Conservatives tend to prefer the brand-name products of Walmart

Topics: Pacific Standard, Conservatives, Wal-Mart, Trader Joe's, Brands, , ,

There's a reason more liberals shop at Trader Joe's
This piece originally appeared on Pacific Standard.

Pacific Standard

The cliché that liberals shop at Trader Joe’s, while conservatives prefer Walmart, is no doubt overstated. But where would the perception come from?

Newly published research provides a compelling answer: brand-name products. Conservatives gravitate toward them, and Walmart, unlike Trader Joe’s, is packed with them.

That provocative conclusion can be drawn from a study in the journal Psychological Science. A research team led by Vishal Singh of New York University’s Stern School of Business has discovered a relationship between voting behavior, high levels of religiosity, and “seemingly inconsequential product choices.”

They argue that your decision to vote for a certain candidate, and purchase a particular brand of detergent, springs from the same basic impulse:

“Our empirical results, based on extensive field data, provide strong evidence that more conservative ideology is associated with higher reliance on established national brands (as opposed to generics) and a slower uptake of new products.”

“These tendencies are consistent with traits typically associated with conservatism, such as aversion to risk, skepticism about new experiences, and a general preference for tradition, convention, and the status quo.”

The researchers used a comprehensive database that tracks weekly store sales of thousands of products. Focusing on 416 counties which collectively represent 47 percent of the U.S. population, they calculated the market share of generics in 26 categories, including coffee, deodorant, and peanut butter.

Making similar county-to-county comparisons, they also calculated the market share of new products in the first year after their launch.

Using data from the Association of Religion Data Archives, the researchers determined the percentage of residents of each county who adhered to a particular faith. This was “strictly defined as the number of full members of a religious denomination, and the number of nonmembers who attend services regularly.”

Finally, to assess political affiliation, the researchers used the average percentage of Republican votes cast in the eight presidential elections between 1980 and 2008.



The results: In 19 of the 26 categories, greater religiosity was strongly associated with a lower market share for generic products. (The association was also found in another six categories, but at a level below statistical significance.) “We found essentially the same pattern in the associations between Republican voting and generics,” they write.

“Similarly,” they add, “the market share of new products was significantly lower in counties with higher levels of religiosity and Republican voting. Taken together, our results provide strong evidence that more conservative markets are associated with a higher reliance on established national brands and a lower penetration of new products.”

These findings are in line with recent research suggesting our ideological fault lines extend to surprising territory, including patterns of charitable giving. A study published last year provided evidence of literal differences between the brains of liberals and conservatives.
To follow up, Singh and his colleagues hope to explore differences in purchasing choices between individualistic, Western cultures and more collectivist, Eastern societies. While that will be interesting, they have already found a fascinating pattern within the U.S.

It seems ideological attitudes reveal themselves not only in the voting booth and the church pew, but also in the supermarket check-out lane.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 17
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails
    John Stanmeyer

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Container City: Shipping containers, indispensable tool of the globalized consumer economy, reflect the skyline in Singapore, one of the world’s busiest ports.

    Lu Guang

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Man Covering His Mouth: A shepherd by the Yellow River cannot stand the smell, Inner Mongolia, China

    Carolyn Cole/LATimes

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Angry Crowd: People jostle for food relief distribution following the 2010 earthquake in Haiti

    Darin Oswald/Idaho Statesman

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    “Black Friday” Shoppers: Aggressive bargain hunters push through the front doors of the Boise Towne Square mall as they are opened at 1 a.m. Friday, Nov. 24, 2007, Boise, Idaho, USA

    Google Earth/NOAA, U.S. Navy, NGA, GEBCO

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Suburban Sprawl: aerial view of landscape outside Miami, Florida, shows 13 golf courses amongst track homes on the edge of the Everglades.

    Garth Lentz

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Toxic Landscape: Aerial view of the tar sands region, where mining operations and tailings ponds are so vast they can be seen from outer space; Alberta, Canada

    Cotton Coulson/Keenpress

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Ice Waterfall: In both the Arctic and Antarctic regions, ice is retreating. Melting water on icecap, North East Land, Svalbard, Norway

    Yann Arthus-Bertrand

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Satellite Dishes: The rooftops of Aleppo, Syria, one of the world’s oldest cities, are covered with satellite dishes, linking residents to a globalized consumer culture.

    Stephanie Sinclair

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Child Brides: Tahani, 8, is seen with her husband Majed, 27, and her former classmate Ghada, 8, and her husband in Hajjah, Yemen, July 26, 2010.

    Mike Hedge

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Megalopolis: Shanghai, China, a sprawling megacity of 24 Million

    Google Earth/ 2014 Digital Globe

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Big Hole: The Mir Mine in Russia is the world’s largest diamond mine.

    Daniel Dancer

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Clear-cut: Industrial forestry degrading public lands, Willamette National Forest, Oregon

    Peter Essick

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Computer Dump: Massive quantities of waste from obsolete computers and other electronics are typically shipped to the developing world for sorting and/or disposal. Photo from Accra, Ghana.

    Daniel Beltra

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Oil Spill Fire: Aerial view of an oil fire following the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil disaster, Gulf of Mexico

    Ian Wylie

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Slide 13

    Airplane Contrails: Globalized transportation networks, especially commercial aviation, are a major contributor of air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. Photo of contrails in the west London sky over the River Thames, London, England.

    R.J. Sangosti/Denver Post

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Fire: More frequent and more intense wildfires (such as this one in Colorado, USA) are another consequence of a warming planet.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>