Some controversial modern psychologists claim that conservatives and liberals don't just differ in political ideology, correlation and causation is inferred in actual personality templates and even genetics - yes, that would mean Americans are evolving into two distinct species separate from the rest of the planet. So in that odd framework they have decided American liberals are conscientious, conservatives are reactionary, conservatives are afraid of uncertainty, liberals are open to new experiences, etc.
You can guess the political skew of psychologists by knowing which fuzzy-wuzzy positive and negative terms are identified with which parts of the left-right graph. And it's all left-right simplicity so they can try to get in the New York Times. Knowing their idea of data is just surveys of college undergraduate students means you might not take psychology claims on conservativism and liberalism seriously - but mainstream media does, and the lack of distrust that has brought on has become a real problem for science acceptance in the last decade.
Scientists are immune to that simplistic thinking. Peer review is, after all, a conservative endeavor, and such vague claims and the love affair with survey statistics would never pass peer review in actual science.
But if modern social psychology is mostly made up, there is no reason it has to be limited to psychologists - anyone can do it. And so business scholars have taken the next logical step and claim political differences can be determined by - and maybe even determine, in social science land - what people buy in a grocery store.
If you are a rigid, fearful, un-conscientious conservative, well, you inexplicably give time and money to charity and help your fellow man a lot more, it seems, but that is beside the point - when it comes to shopping, you are so afraid of anything new and different you will pay more for an expensive name brand rather than buy a cheaper store brand version of creamed corn.
This is in defiance of the usual one-dimensional stereotypes we are handed about conservatives; they are greedy, hate people, drink oil and worship vampire babies, etc. Since all conservatives are supposed to be some version of Old Man Potter from "It's A Wonderful Life", wouldn't they buy everything as cheaply as they can? Reason checks itself at the door in these papers and there is a better way to insult people on the right - by claiming that conservative people are so repressed and stupid that they dupe themselves into believing generic food companies are building brand new factories to produce inferior, generic corn flakes, while super-smart liberals know that the generic brand uses the exact same factory and the corn flakes are the same.
But that is in defiance of reality. Who is more educated by advertising and buys organic food, despite the fact that it is in no way better for anyone? The left. Who is predominantly anti-vaccine, despite the miraculous levels of good modern medicine has accomplished? Not fearful, close-minded, religious conservative people; overwhelmingly religious Alabama has an extremely high vaccination rate while overwhelmingly left-wing Washington and California are trying to bring back every crippling childhood disease they can.
These people are young, pretty and smiling because they just overspent on name brands rather than buying generic. They must be conservatives. Credit: Shutterstock
The fact that mainstream media is going to lovingly coo about this study is why the public rightfully does not trust journalism any more. Well, that and the fact that the somewhat shoddy Knight Foundation paid known plagiarist and 'psychology science' writer Jonah Lehrer $20,000 to humblebrag to them about why he is intellectually representative of a lot of science journalism (revolting) and simply needs progressive social authoritarianism to tell him to not make stuff up - $20K sounds like a lot, but that's only a mortgage payment on the $2.25 million house he bought with all those sales to the gullible people who bought his book on creativity, which was all woo-based psychology claims.
Back to business: How did these business scholars make their determination? They sifted through sales results for supermarkets during the years 2001-2006, in a selection of counties across the USA. Then they matched the sales results to the voting history and religious belief in those counties. If they voted Republican and claimed to be religious, they must be conservatives.
Fair enough. And in those conservative counties, they found generic products sold less well and new products took longer to catch on. Let's use correlation to hint about marketing!
Subtle supposition: conservatives are as afraid to buy generic food as liberals are afraid of science (expect global warming - they trust science on that one).
Now, there are a few ways their result can also be interpreted. Maybe conservative counties are richer and don't care about value, that would be in line with the greedy, conservative stereotype. Well, no, that doesn't work. Counties that have a Whole Foods store overwhelmingly vote Democrat, for example, while counties with a Cracker Barrel restaurant vote Republican - and Whole Foods only opens in rich places while Cracker Barrel appeals more to people with less wealth. 8 of the 10 richest counties in America voted for President Obama in 2012 so it can't be that conservatives are richer and don't have to buy generic the way poor people might.
Surveys - sorry, 'studies' - have also shown that when liberals get drunk their politically correct inhibitions go down and they get more conservative, not more liberal, so the premise itself could be flawed. But, no, the scholars stick with the belief that voting is linked to fearfulness, conservatives are afraid to try anything new and that includes generic green beans. Yet we know that despite what psychologists want to believe, it is just the opposite. It is the left who wants to send us back to the 13th century and are afraid of the present and future. Except for a slight difference in evolution acceptance and the difference regarding climate change, the right wing is far more accepting of science. On food, energy and medicine, the three biggest crises the world faces this century, the right wing wants to embrace the future while the left is afraid of uncertainty and not open to new experiences.
Almost anything can be subjected to cultural spin by partisans and this is no exception. In the case of drunk college students, the rationalization was that super-smart liberals needed to get away from their super-smart brains and so alcohol made them respond to surveys like dumb conservatives would. In the case of buying habits in more conservative counties, the claim is that ideological differences are controlling daily behavior at the unconscious level. It's a "you can't prove that isn't happening" feel-good fallacy.
They write "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", which would be all well and good, except those are actually descriptions of progressives when it comes to food.
What about me? Since comments about me currently show 'You Are A Neo-Con Nazi Shill For The Right' leads 'You Are A Commie Fag Liberal Pinko Junkie' 52% to 48%, I have to confess this paper won't clear up anything. I buy generic whenever I can, I know which food is just as good as a name brand by now, which makes me a super-smart liberal, but I also hunt and kill my own food, which makes me a fearful, gun-toting conservative.
Citation: Romana Khan, Kanishka Misra and Vishal Singh, 'Ideology and Brand Consumption', Psychological Science doi: 10.1177/0956797612457379