Does how you eat determine how you vote, or maybe the other way around? Turns out that yes, maybe it does — voting and eating choices do seem to be linked, at least to some degree.
Experian Marketing Services regularly surveys consumer eating and shopping habits and has found that different retail and restaurant chains each have their own political “flavors”: Those who eat at California Pizza Kitchen, for instance, tend strongly to be politically liberal, as do those who frequent Romano’s Macaroni Grill and the very upscale Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse. On the other end of the scale, diners at Bob Evans, the very folksy Cracker Barrel, and Texas-steak purveyor Longhorn Steakhouse lean mostly conservative.
Looking at Experian’s data, however, I’m not all that surprised. Looking at the bright, cheery, paper-craftsy decor of a California Pizza Kitchen it would be jarring to see on the walls the leather cartridge belt, holster, and faux six-shooters that sometimes grace a Longhorn Steakhouse. The Longhorn diners may well have a six-gun or two at home, whereas the more nitpicky-organic eaters at CPK… well, not so much. And the political ratings of these two restaurant chains bear that out.
But there are some real surprises too: Idaho-based Albertson’s Supermarket leans liberal, as does frequent cop-food Dunkin’ Donuts, whereas Southern-California based Stater Brothers Markets is strongly conservative. (Though maybe I shouldn’t be so surprised: Having shopped many times at Stater Brother markets back in the 1980s, they did have something of a country-market feel, at least to me.) And while I was not surprised to see Starbucks rated as very liberal, I found it unexpected to find Chipotle even more liberal, in fact one of the most liberal places of any kind.
And some are surprising by being so unsurprising, their ratings so one-sided they nearly match their stereotypical images in popular media: Whole Foods Markets and Trader Joe’s rate massively liberal, Wal-Mart and the deep-South’s Piggly Wiggly both strongly conservative.
What about the all-things-to-all-people fast-food chains like McDonald’s, Taco Bell, Wendy’s, Jack in the Box, Burger King, and Subway: All solidly middle of the road, seemingly almost fastidiously so. My theory: These types of chains work so hard to have something for everyone that they come closest to reflecting the down-the-middle leanings of the general American populace. In other words, if you throw a wide enough net, you’ll get a pretty representative average — maybe.
And in case you’re wondering, customers of the up-front, in-your-face Hooter’s lean… strongly liberal.
For more info, including an explanation of the methodology and a much longer list of ratings broken down by restaurant chains, fast-food chains, and supermarkets, see Experian’s published results.