Researchers Say that If You Don't Eat at Arby's or Applebee's, You're Probably a Liberal

"Conservatives... disproportionately buy Jell-O gelatin desserts and eat at Arby’s.”
July 13, 2018, 6:45pm
Photo via Flickr user Mike Mozart

Can you remember a time when you ever craved a sandwich from Arby’s? Can you name one item—any item—on the Applebee’s menu? Have you recently thrown a box of Little Debbie snack cakes into your shopping cart? If you answered ‘no’ to all three of those questions, then there’s a good chance that you’re a liberal.

As reported by the Washington Post, two University of Chicago Booth School of Business economists used decades’ worth of results to three major surveys and taught machines to use that data to determine a person’s politics, education, income level, race, and gender. Their findings—which could be surprisingly accurate—were published by the National Bureau of Economic Research.


“In this paper, we measure the extent of cultural distance across various groups in the US over time,” authors Marianne Bertrand and Emir Kamenica wrote. “We assemble multiple datasets that allow us to capture as many aspects of people’s cultural lives as possible, for as long as possible. This includes detailed information on media consumption and consumer behavior, attitudes, and time use.” They also studied the brands and goods that both liberals and conservatives bought or consumed and discovered that they were around 70 percent accurate when it comes to predicting a person’s political ideology based on their purchases.

“The list of products individually most distinctive of ideology is interesting,” they wrote. “In all years, liberals distinguish themselves from conservatives by drinking alcohol. Conservatives, on the other hand, are much more likely to engage in fishing. Ideology-specific brands are mostly food, primarily with brands indicative of conservatives who disproportionately buy Jell-O gelatin desserts and eat at Arby’s.”

The pair reported the ten cultural traits that were “most indicative” of being liberal in each of three years (1994, 2001, and 2009) and each trait was accompanied by a number that indicated the likelihood whether that answer determine whether the person was liberal. “For example, in 1994, knowing whether a person bought any alcoholic beverage allows us to guess political ideology correctly 56.0 percent of the time, whereas knowing whether a person owns a lawn mower allows us to guess political ideology correctly 55.5 percent of the time,” they explained.

For 2009—which was the most recent year covered by the survey they used—some of the food-related traits indicating whether you’re a dang lib’rul include: didn’t use Ranch salad dressing (56.2 percent), didn’t use disposable plates (56 percent), didn’t eat food at Arby’s (55.6 percent), didn’t use JIF peanut butter (54.4 percent), didn’t dine at Applebee’s (54.4 percent), didn’t use Tyson-brand chicken or turkey (54.2 percent), didn’t down fast food at Sonic (54.1 percent), didn’t reach for Little Debbie snack cakes (54 percent), and didn’t use Cool Whip (54 percnet).

If you’re a liberal, you’ve probably also purchased a novel recently and aren’t wearing Dockers-brand khakis when you read this. Those responses predicted my own admittedly liberal behavior pretty accurately, although I wish we could’ve left Little Debbie out of it. Oatmeal Creme Pies are apolitical and perfect.