Sunday, December 11, 2011

Will 2012 be the Tofu/Fried Twinkie election? Who cares?

Just when you thought it was safe to analyze elections, David Wasserman drags us back to the politico-cultural waters David Brooks sailed years ago. To wit:
In 2012, the campaign might be a contest between these alternate universes of culture and cuisine: Whole Foods Markets and Cracker Barrel Old Country Stores.

In 2008, candidate Barack Obama carried 81 percent of counties with a Whole Foods and just 36 percent of counties with a Cracker Barrel —a record 45-point gap.
And then the articles goes on to talk about the unique cultures of these two stores. Wasserman even attempts to pin the stores down on their political views:
Though Whole Foods refused to comment for this story, Cracker Barrel says there’s no connection. “Politics don’t play any role in our site selection process,” said Julie Davis, a spokeswoman for the company.
First of all, good for Whole Foods for not even playing this game. (And by the way, given that Whole Foods' CEO is an anti-union libertarian, that's kind of an odd institution to cast in the role of liberal cultural leader.) Second, yeah, Cracker Barrel's main objective in siting its stores is not the advancement of some political agenda; they're trying to make a buck, just like other stores. This really isn't news.

Now, it is somewhat interesting, if hardly novel, that food tastes and other cultural indicators correlate with political preferences, at least at the county level. But does it mean anything beyond that? Does it really mean anything to say that 2012 will be the Whole Foods/Cracker Barrel election? Does this tell us anything we didn't already know about the election?  

Oh, and what was this?
In the 2008 primary, Obama was able to overcome Hillary Rodham Clinton partly because the Democratic Party had become more Whole Foods than Cracker Barrel.
Sigh.

3 comments:

metrichead said...

Interesting. I didn't know they collected data that cross references county election results with the existence of Whole Foods. I guess this is what happens when political journalists run out of things to say.

I don't think the use of counties in his articles is a good measure of the political climate. Maybe I'm wrong. But I think it's overly simplistic, especially given the amount of geography a county covers.

I lived in Washtenaw County, which is home to Ann Arbor (it has a Whole Foods, too) and the greatest college football program ever. Ann Arbor is about as liberal a town as they come, but it's complete contrast to the rest of the county, a deep Republican red.

The use of towns and communities would have been a better measure than counties, no?

Seth said...

There's a whole sub-literature on the use of counties as units of analysis. It makes sense to some extent, simply because counties have pretty fixed borders over many decades, there's lots of data available at that level, and people largely identify with their counties (as opposed to their legislative district or suburban cities). Towns and communities might be better, but the data are a lot harder to come by.

dmarks said...

"And by the way, given that Whole Foods' CEO is an anti-union libertarian, that's kind of an odd institution to cast in the role of liberal cultural leader"

I'm sure anyone who works at Whole Foods is free to give as much money to any union they want to.

But unlike in "closed shop" situations, the workers aren't forced to give money to unions against their will and against their interest.