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Republican or Democrat? Here’s How Your Political Views Influence the Way You Shop

Democrats and Republicans have similar tastes for luxury goods, but they splurge for different reasons, according to new research.

A study published in the most recent edition of the Journal of Marketing found that more conservative shoppers tend to purchase high-end products that they believe will help them maintain their social status.

A team of researchers from Insead, Hong Kong’s UST Business School and Georgia State University analyzed data from six studies, including one that looked at nearly 22,000 car purchases made between October 2011 and September 2012. The buyers were surveyed about their political affiliations, social status and motivations for making the purchase. High-status Republicans, the study found, were 9.8 percent more likely than high-status Democrats to buy a luxury car, and spent over $4,000 more on average than their more liberal peers.

In a separate experiment, the researchers asked 403 participants to look at one of three eyewear advertisements, all for the same product, that targeted three motivations: maintaining status, updating status and “eyewear for everyone” that offered no status positioning. Participants on both sides of the political divide were willing to pay more for the products with status positioning, but Republicans were significantly more willing to pay for the eyewear that promised to “keep your status with status.”

This line of research offers particularly salient information for marketers. “This is a very accessible tool for luxury brands,” said Brian Park, one of the study’s co-authors. “Political affiliations can be determined along geographical lines — and there are tons of granular data easily accessible that enable brands to enact a segmentation based on political ideology.”

Also this month, researchers from Boston College and the Catholic University of Portugal published a study in the Journal of Consumer Research that demonstrated a link between political ideology and consumer preferences: liberals were drawn to products that emphasized their uniqueness, like a fictitious shoe line that was advertised as “irreverent, hip and sometimes eccentric,” while conservatives preferred products that signaled their superiority, like a shoe line positioned as “posh, elegant and sometimes extravagant.”

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