In a highly polarized political climate, with more than a year to wait until the next major election, red and blue lines are being drawn in unexpected battlegrounds in a what seems to be a never-ending dress rehearsal meant to influence in some small way the outcome of the big show. The latest front is snack foods.
Recently, Doritos announced that it would begin selling rainbow-colored chips in limited-edition bags, the proceeds of which would go to the It Gets Better project to support LGBT Youth.
While most snack food enthusiasts might be keen to snag a bag of the technicolor chips - in fact the rainbow bags have already sold out - the underlying political statement rubbed some the wrong way.
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Conservative commentators accused Frito-Lay of promoting homosexuality and took to Twitter with the hashtag #BoycottDoritos, reported Rolling Stone. Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee even weighed in late last week, taking issue with the founder of the It Gets Better project.
The episode is reminiscent of liberal backlash in 2012 after the fast food chain Chick-Fil-A was reported to have made millions of dollars in donations to political groups hostile to LGBT rights. As a form of counter-protest, supporters of the chain's efforts had a "Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day" that led to record-breaking sales.
Food companies don't need to take a political stand, either explicitly or implicitly, to attract a certain kind of customer to their business. Even without their efforts, the red-blue divide in the United States has led Americans to vote with their wallets all on their own.
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Last year, Experian Marketing Services released the results of a survey of 27,000 Americans identifying the food preferences of consumers across the political spectrum.
Among chain restaurants, the top chains more often frequented by liberals were California Pizza Kitchen, Romano's Macaroni Grill and Ruth's Chris Steak House. Conservatives, on the other hand, more regularly dined at O'Charley's, Cracker Barrel and Hometown Buffet.
For fast food, conservatives tended more often to get a quick bite from Krystal, Whataburger and Schlotzsky's Deli (with Chick-Fil-A coming in fourth). Liberals looking for a fast meal were more likely to stop by Au Bon Pain, Chipotle or Qdoba.
There was even a divide based on political affiliation where consumers shopped for groceries. Liberals more frequently could be found down the aisles of Whole Foods, Trader's Joe's and Fred Meyer. Conservative more often made their crossed off their grocery lists at Randalls, Weis Markets or Piggly Wiggly.
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Conservatives and liberals can disagree on not only where to eat but also what to eat. Take snack foods, for example. Conservatives are more likely to prefer pretzels while liberals tend to favor pita chips. Unsurprisingly, moderates took a more ecumenical approach and opted for party mix.
Party divides can be seen in drink preferences as well. A study published in 2013 in the Journal of Wine Economics found that left-leaning states tended to consume more hard liquor and beer than conservative ones.
None of these preferences mean that consumers in either faction should avoid the tendencies of the other side to avoid appearing as some kind of turncoat. It's not quite a case of, "You are what you eat," so having a pita chip won't suddenly make you more likely to favor a minimum wage.
Still though, these differences show that political affiliation is a manifestation of a deeper cultural and social identity that can influence lifestyles in subtle and occasionally unexpected ways.