Well Being

Least Insightful Election Poll: Liberal Versus Conservative Food Preferences

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Look, I know it's popular during election season to paint Republicans and Democrats as totally different species, but this takes the (mutually enjoyed by left and right) cake. In “Divided by Politics, United by Food,” it's clear USA Today really, really, reallllly wanted to be able to tell you that the folks in “red states” and “blue states” enjoy vastly different cuisines. But – alas! – the facts don't support this, so instead made a great big interactive infographic highlighting the very few, very small differences it found. Rest assured that we now know red state residents eat 2% more beans with dinner that blue state adults.

Here's how the article beneath the infographic starts:

Folks from red and blue states may vote very differently, but they sure don't eat very differently.

That may sound hard to swallow. But residents of red, blue and swing states have such similar eating and drinking habits that real differences are tough to find, according to a Red State/Blue State/Swing State consumer eating study conducted exclusively for USA TODAY by the research firm NPD Group, just ahead of the election.

Two points for the “swallow” pun, but why oh why oh why would anyone assume that the way people vote determines the way they eat? Notice USA Today specially commissioned this study, so the hypothesis going in was obviously that they would find serious differences (you don't commission studies expecting to find nothing significant).

Has no one on their editorial board ever eaten lunch with someone whose politics were different than their own? Do they really believe liberals eat nothing but arugula and lattes while conservatives eat nothing but steak and America dust? Seriously, what were they expecting to find? The article goes on to explain:

“Not only does the NPD study quash conventional beliefs that folks from red and blue states have widely different eating habits, but it can ultimately affect the way food makers and sellers market, distribute and sell food.”

Helpful hint for USA Today's editors: In order for something to be a “conventional belief,” most people have to actually believe it.

If you're curious what the poll actually did uncover — of the 4,000+ food and beverage items included, there were only 27 significant differences between red and blue states. This includes such scintillating and politically noteworthy preferences as:

  • Nearly a quarter of blue state residents prefer fruit juice with breakfast, compared to 18.6% of those in red states. Blue staters also drink more coffee and eat more fruit with breakfast.
  • Red state residents are 2.9% more likely to eat biscuits with breakfast.
  • 9.4% of blue state adults drink milk with lunch, compared with 5.7% of adults in red states. They also drink more milk with dinner.
  • Red state adults are more likely to drink soft drinks with lunch (24.6% vs. 18.5%) and with dinner (21.1% vs. 17%). They're also more likely to have iced tea with dinner.