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Do you vote like a Toyota? Or a Ford?

October 29, 2019
Roshan George

How Voting Preferences Are Tied To Local Brands

We know there are differences between Republicans and Democrats on political issues. But what about the brands they love?

We analyzed SafeGraph Places, a dataset of 6 million points of interest in the US & Canada, to determine whether your voting habits are related to the cars you drive or the places you buy your books. We proxied how popular a brand is by how many of its stores are present in a particular congressional district. It turns out that the popularity of some products is quite an indicator of how we’d vote.

Car Preference By Political Party

Car owner stereotypes are common and well-known, and while it’s no surprise that Democrat-leaning congressional districts (which tend to be urban and have higher incomes) have more luxury cars, it’s also true that partisan districts have quite large differences in the distributions of makes even for non-luxury cars.

Of the 435 congressional districts in the 115th Congress, the ones that most voted for Trump had dealerships that were 25% more likely to be Ford, Chevrolet, and GMC than the US average. Dealerships in districts that went strongly for Clinton were twice as likely to be BMWs as average. A higher percentage of dealerships in these districts were foreign makes (Volkswagen, Toyota, Subaru, for instance, all over-represented by 25–50% over the US average) and a lower percentage of American makes. These results even look similar with California (which supplies most of the Democrat-partisan districts) removed.

Where Fords are popular
Where Volkswagens are popular

The top districts that went for Clinton have far more dealerships that sell luxury cars (notably, three times as many Lamborghinis or Teslas as average) and fewer dealerships in total. Since congressional districts have populations roughly the same by law (the largest is less than twice the size of the smallest), this means strong Clinton districts have fewer dealerships (about a third the number present in strong Trump districts) for the people present. That’s not particularly surprising, since urban voters (where there is less room for dealerships) more frequently voted for Clinton.

Coffee Preference By Political Party

Drinks and food are great unifiers, with Americans of all stripes choosing to get their coffee at Starbucks, their doughnuts at Dunkin’ Donuts, and their ice-cream at Baskin Robbins. The top Trump and Clinton quintiles (and even deciles) go to the same top stores for their favorites, though there are much fewer Dunkin’ Donuts locations in the former.

Here are the results by Brand for Top Trump Districts vs. Top Clinton Districts:

  • Starbucks: Dead even, 107% the US average for both sets of partisans
  • Dunkin’ Donuts: 62% the US average for Trump partisans, 89% for Clinton partisans
  • Baskin Robbins: 121% the average for Trump vs 130% for Clinton. We all do love our ice cream.
  • Panera Bread: 133% the average for Trump vs. 64% for Clinton!

Bookstore Preference By Political Party

More books are sold online today than any other way, but as far as brick-and-mortar shops go, most Americans have a Barnes and Noble nearby they can go to, irrespective of where in the country they are or how their district votes. Notable distinctions between top Clinton districts and top Trump districts are that the former don’t have as many Books-A-Million locations, and before Christian retailer LifeWay’s planned shutdown of their physical locations, they were most common in Trump-leaning districts while being nearly completely absent in top Clinton districts.

Barnes and Nobles as a percentage of bookstores across the country
LifeWay Christian Stores as a percentage of bookstores

Bank Preference By Political Party

Most Americans have a Chase, Bank of America, US Bank, or Wells Fargo near them, but Trump partisans usually live in Regions Bank territory. If you know you’re in a partisan congressional district and you can’t find out which side the district falls on, look around for a Regions Bank. If you find one close to you easily, chances are that your district votes for Trump preferentially.

Got other questions like this you’d like to answer? Head to the SafeGraph Shop to download our data.

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