Whether consumers are conservative or liberal in their political persuasion could play a role in how they choose to purchase name-branded and generic products in the supermarket, say researchers writing in Psychological Science.
The research, led by Vishal Singh of New York University, USA, shows that conservatives and liberals differ on basic personality traits such as conscientiousness, tolerance for uncertainty, and openness to new experience.
These personality traits, the research team adds leads to conservative consumers’ possessing a tendency to prefer tradition and convention that is reflected in purchasing behaviours, so leading them to choose established name-brand products over generic brands or new products.
"These tendencies are consistent with traits typically associated with conservatism, such as aversion to risk, skepticism about new experiences, and a general preference for tradition, convention, and the status quo," Singh and colleagues write.
Singh and his colleagues analysed weekly sales data from over 1,800 supermarkets in counties across the United States, spanning the years from 2001 to 2006. Using data on voting history and religiosity — factors that are independently correlated with conservative values — they were able to determine the level of conservatism in each county.
After accounting for factors such as income and education, the team found that the market share for a wide variety of generic products was lower in more conservative areas than in more liberal areas.
Similarly, uptake of newly launched products was systematically lower in more conservative counties, they said.
Singh and his team proposed that their data suggests that conservative ideology is be associated with reliance on established national brands, and a low uptake of new brands or generic products.
“Our analysis of market shares for a variety of frequently purchased products shows that both of these measures of conservatism [voting history and religiosity] are associated with a systematic preference for established national brands (as opposed to their generic substitutes) and with a lower propensity to buy newly launched products,” the authors confirmed .
They added that the findings provide the first evidence for a relationship between political affiliation and buying behaviour – suggesting that ideological differences are reflected in daily behaviour, even at the unconscious level.