Your Name, Beer Choice, and Favorite TV Show Mapped by Political Leaning

Recent analyses of consumer and political databases indicate that politics more or less permeates all parts of life. Of course, there are demographic factors at work like age, gender, and ethnicity, but also much more subtle indicators of how Democratic or Republican certain groups of people are. From the TV shows we watch, to the beer we drink, to our very names, almost anything can be shown to have a political skew. As Yahoo columnist Chris Wilson put it in his recent political analysis of first names, “Applied to a single person, this is called stereotyping. Applied to a group, it’s called microtargeting.” Interactive graphics like the one above allow us to see these data in aggregate form, when they are both most useful and least like stereotypes.

Chris Wilson analyzed databases of political donors for Barack Obama and Mitt Romney who gave more than $200 and thus had to be publicly reported. He weeded out those actual names (as opposed to groups)—about 40,000 of them—and plotted those occurring more than 25 times into the graphic above. Wilson explains in his article why it is that names tend to be political: many are more popular in particular age demographics. He writes,

A tremendous number of clues are encoded in our names: our gender, age, ethnicity, even from which region of the United States we hail. A person named Schmidt is much more likely than average to have German ancestry, and therefore to have ancestors who settled in the Midwest. If a woman is named Helen, which peaked in popularity in the 1910s, she is more likely to be of retirement age than if her name is Ashley, which was all the rage in the ’80s…

I first noticed that names seemed to loosely correlate with politics when thumbing through a list of delegates during one of the political conventions. The Republicans seemed to have a hold on the Donalds and Sharons, while the Democrats were rich in Angelas and Willies. [1]

As arbitrary as these associations it may sound, Wilson even suggests that his findings could be used by political campaigns as a way to target people of one political leaning or another: “Candidates who can’t afford fancy market research can get a lot of the same data from the phone book.”

Image via Natmedia [2]

This graphic, published by Natmedia in May, 2012 shows how over 26,000 viewers of major TV shows stand politically. Sports networks were more viewed by Republicans and nightly news programs were more viewed by Democrats. Perhaps most interesting is that shows like “The Office” and “Modern Family” managed to appeal fairly evenly to all viewers. As for highest voter turnout, “The Mentalist” comes in first while “WWE Friday Night Smackdown” comes in last.

Image via the National Journal

Three days ago, the National Journal published an analysis of which brands of beer consumers prefer across the political spectrum. Though we might think of beer as pretty far from politics, the authors show that beer has its place in politics. They write,

Beer has a long and storied place in American presidential history and politics.

George Washington famously brewed it. James Madison purportedly sought to create a cabinet-level Secretary of Beer. And Franklin Delano Roosevelt helped make it legal to produce and sell (again) by championing legislation repealing Prohibition. Upon signing the bill, he reportedly said, “I think this would be a good time for a beer.”

As you may have heard, our current president likes his beer, too. Earlier this month, the Obama White House released two official recipes of its own in a blog post entitled “Ale to the Chief.” [3]

They go on to show how this data might be useful for marketers and give some sound political advice to the nation’s brewers.

As the bubble chart shows, Dos Equis is a bipartisan brew – Republicans and Democrats both like to drink it. So Mr. Goldsmith’s public foray into the 2012 race could alienate a large share of Dos Equis fans.

Ironically, this is in contrast to its corporate sister Heineken, which as it turns out is the most Democratic beer of all. On the other hand, Republicans love their Coors Light and favor Sam Adams, which is brewed just a few miles away from Romney campaign headquarters and whose namesake was an original tea partier.

Dos Equis is not the first – and won’t be the last – brand to find itself in a political pickle. From Chick-fil-A to Susan G. Komen to the pizza owner who recently hugged the president, the fallout depends on media coverage, the brand’s response, and the political values of its customers.

We continue to advise big brands – who spend millions on consumer research – to make the investment to know where their fans stand politically and to put in safeguards to mitigate a political firestorm.

That being said, the best advice we can give: Stay nonpartisan, my friends.

Though drinkers of certain brands have slight political leanings, that has more to do with the appeal of a brand to particular age groups and regions of the country than a beer’s substance. However, brands can certainly be made political by statements from its owners or management, and in doing so alienate certain customers. Since all brands have drinkers on both sides of the aisle, beer companies would best serve their interests by staying out of politics entirely.


[1] “How your first name can predict your politics,” Yahoo
[2] “What voters watch in primetime,” Natmedia
[3] “The politics of beer,” The National Journal

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