Election 2016

Do Stores Have Politics? You Can Tell a Lot About How a District Votes by Its Retail Landscape

Forget red and blue states, maybe they should be called Ben & Jerry's and Chick-fil-A states.

Photo Credit: Ken Wolter / Shutterstock.com

If you do your grocery shopping at Whole Foods, you probably live in area more likely to vote Democratic. On the other hand, if you buy your food at Kroger’s, people in your area probably voted Republican in Tuesday’s election. That’s what Time magazine found when it looked at how Congressional districts voted on Tuesday and crossed referenced it with the prevalence of brick-and-mortar retail chains in those areas.

To create their interactive chart, Time matched some 2 million store locations to how a district voted in this week’s midterm elections. The publication found that certain brands, like Ben & Jerry, American Apparel, Tesla and Trader Joe's were more likely found in Democratic-voting districts, while brands like Cracker Barrel, Dillard’s, and Waffle House had more of a presence in Republican-voting districts.

While at first glance, this might seem more like a red state/blue state map (brands like Waffle House, Cracker Barrel, and Hobby Lobby have more presence in Southern states, for example), there may be a bit of consumer psychology behind it.

Ben & Jerry’s, American Apparel, and Tesla, for example, have been perceived as companies with a more progressive agenda. Ben & Jerry’s co-founders, Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield are famous for their support of progressive candidates and causes, Tesla founder Elon Musk is an advocate of green-energy technologies, and American Apparel — despite serious sexual-harassment allegations against its founder Dov Charney — supports immigration reform, gay rights, and sustainability.

Conversely, corporations such as Hobby Lobby, Cracker Barrel, and Chick-fil-A, which are found in more conservatives areas, have generated controversy for their respective conservative stances on birth control, racial and sexual-orientation discrimination, and same-sex marriage.

Several corporations are so ubiquitous throughout the U.S. landscape that their presence is somewhat politically neutral, at least in this recent election cycle. These retail chains include In-and-Out Burger, Chipotle, Starbucks, and Planet Fitness.

While Time doesn't downplay the correlation among brands and red/blue districts and brick-and-mortar chains, it is cautionary about reading too much into its own graphic, stating this:

"There is no evidence, of course, that a regular infusion of banana ice cream and fudge chunks inspires a person toward liberalism. Because two-thirds of the Ben & Jerry’s in the United States are found in Democratic districts, however, the mere presence of a store in a district raises the statistical odds that its residents are people who vote for Democrats.

While stores like Whole Foods or Hobby Lobby might already conjure partisan stereotypes, the vast majority of America’s brands do not. Even so, where these stores are located tells us a tremendous amount about who their shoppers are sending to Washington."

To use Time's interactive chart, click here

 

Cliff Weathers is a former senior editor at AlterNet and served as a deputy editor at Consumer Reports. Twitter @cliffweathers.

 

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