“If you’re not a liberal at twenty you have no heart, if you’re not a conservative at forty you have no brain.” - Winston Churchill
Tell me what you eat and I’ll tell you how you vote! The results of a survey by www.hunch.com (a site that makes recommendations based on preferences, ranging from which car you should drive to which holiday destination or college choice is best for you) indicates that your political views say a lot about the food choices you make. For example, people who lean to the political left prefer thin-crust pizza, fancy shaped pastas, such as fusilli, and a glass of wine with dinner, while right wing conservatives enjoy deep-dish pizza, McDonald’s French fries and a can of coke with their meal.
Hunch used 80 million answers to questions that it asked its 700,000 members, in order to predict particular demographics, personality and other characteristics based on their food choices. They then compared all that against the political views the survey takers associated themselves with. Overall, 43% of participants said they tended to support liberal (leftist) politicians, 17% indicated they supported conservative (rightist) politicians, and 23% said they were middle of the road. It should be noted, however, that the web-based survey is not as scientific as truly objective polls because, among other factors, it was not based on a representative sample of the population.
Nevertheless, one is fascinated by some of the results, some of which are summarised here:
• Liberals are 28% more likely than conservatives to eat fresh fruit daily, and 17% more likely to eat toast or a bagel in the morning, while conservatives are 20% more likely to skip breakfast.
• 10% of liberals surveyed indicated they are vegetarians, compared with 3% of conservatives.
• Liberals are 28% more likely than conservatives to enjoy beer, with 60% of liberals indicating they like beer.
• The majority of both liberals and conservatives agreed there’s a significant difference between organic and processed food.
• Liberals are more likely to like seafood, but dislike fast food.
• Conservatives like meatloaf, beans, mashed potatoes, gravy and a can of soft drink, indicating they often eat fast food.
• Left wingers are likely to describe a bacon cheeseburger as “disgusting”, while right wingers describe it as “delicious”.
• Liberals are more likely to eat ethnic foods, often cooking up a lamb coconut curry with rice as a typical home-cooked meal. Conservatives on the other hand describe ordinary Chinese take-away food as “exotic ethnic food”.
• Everybody loves lasagne!
Although there’s a correlation between views and food choices, the study doesn’t say that one influences the other, as demographics could also play a role. This isn’t the first study to show behavioural and other differences between conservatives and liberals. For instance, a study published in 2008 in the journal “Political Psychology” revealed a person’s office or bedroom holds tell-tale signs of whether that person is a conservative or a liberal. For instance, while political conservatives tend to keep a tidy, organised office, political liberals favour colourful, more stylish but cluttered spaces.
Also, if you look at a person, check out their gaze. Liberals are more likely than conservatives to follow other people’s eye movements, according to research published in the journal “Attention, Perception & Psychophysics”. Such political ideology seems to run deep, with another study published in the April 7, 2011 issue of the journal “Current Biology”, finding participants who indicated a liberal ideology tended to have a larger anterior cingulated cortex, a brain region linked to monitoring uncertainty, while conservatives showed a larger amygdala, an area linked with greater sensitivity to fear and disgust.
It seems amazing that not only our political views seem to hard-wired into our brains, but they also influence our behaviour, lifestyle and choices, such as the food we eat. One would now think twice about organising a large dinner party with guests across a wide range of the political spectrum. It would be tough to negotiate a menu that pleases all and is politically “neutral”!