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Conservatives And Liberals Drink Different Beer. Duh.

on 27/02/13 at 11:29 am

Booze News

imagesThe new science of ideology extends to consumer choices, showing how unconscious our political viewpoints are.

It was probably inevitable, but it’s striking nonetheless. In a new study published in the journal Psychological Science, Vishal Singh of New York University’s Stern School of Business and his colleagues apply an ever-growing body of research on the psychological traits of liberals and conservatives to their consumer choices. The result? A stark left-right difference when it comes to favoring well established brands, like Coca-Cola or Tide, over the new and generic products that are trying to compete with them.

In their study (paywall version here), Singh and his colleagues examined a vast set of sales data across 416 U.S. counties—from 135 different supermarket chains and 1,860 individual stores over a six-year period. Within this huge mass of consumerism, the researchers zoomed in on sales in the consumer packaged industry—products ranging from laundry detergents to frozen pizzas to toothpastes and razors. As they note in their study, this industry features the regular introduction of many new products and brands, and also many generics trying to compete with the established brands.

The study hypothesis was simple: In counties characterized by strong Republican voting or religiosity, generics and new products would fare considerably worse at the checkout counter than established brands. Just picture a liberal and a conservative at the laundry detergent aisle. The basic idea is that the conservative more often reaches for the pricier but more established Tide (a Procter & Gamble product), rather than the cheaper in-store generic variant (more often favored, presumably, by the liberal).

Conservatives, after all, are known to be more uncomfortable with uncertainty, and less open to new experiences. There’s every reason to expect this to translate into consumer behavior—particularly with respect to one’s allegiance to brands. “A major function of branding,” write the study authors, “is to reduce uncertainty and simplify decision-making.” Their study design therefore sought to test whether “aspects of conservative values–such as preference for tradition and convention, and dislike of ambiguity and complexity,” would be “reflected in higher reliance on national brands as opposed to generics.”

So what did the study find?