16 Comments

Summary:

The Atlantic recently published an article on what politicans know about voters, complete with market research data that breaks down consumer preferences by poltical party and likely turnout on voting day. There are some strong associations that lack political explanations. I want to know why.

dr pepper

Sometimes, data tells us obvious things — high-turnout Democrats drive hybrids and watch MSNBC, while high-turnout Republicans watch Fox News and eat at Cracker Barrel. Nothing interesting there. But did you know Republicans also love Diet Dr. Pepper?

The data in question, which comes from National Media Research Planning & Placement, illustrates voters’ preferences on everything from soft drink to web site to car choices, broken down by party affiliation and likely turnout at the polls. I came across it in this great article from The Atlantic on what politicans know about voters. As with many findings in our new data-driven world, some of what the NMRPP’s market research uncovered are mysterious, but really understanding these trends is critical to really understanding people.

These brands, for example, skew very strongly toward high-turnout Republicans:

  • Diet Dr. Pepper
  • Michelob Ultra
  • Stein Mart

Seemingly random things that strongly toward high-turnout Democrats: nothing, really. Unless you find Subaru ownership surprising.

I’ve asked this question before, including once in the comments on a post about Mac users booking pricier hotel rooms and, in an expanded version, in a January Long View for GigaOM Pro (sub req’d): How do we figure out why things happen once we figure out that they’re happening? I actually have a few guesses as to why so few things associate strongly with high-turnout Democrats, but nothing I’d bet my life on. I could make a wildly speculative guess on Michelob Ultra, too. But I’m stumped as to why Diet Dr. Pepper, in particular, is so strongly associated with loyal Republicans.

Finding the why answer matters, though, especially if you’re in the business of trying to convince people to buy products or vote for you. You need to understand what really drives them. And as we move away from telephone and in-person surveys toward web-based sentiment analysis, it might get more difficult to find out. A marketer can’t just email someone and say, “I’ve been tracking your online activity (that’s how I got your email address), and I noticed you’re a Diet Dr. Pepper-drinking Republican. Why Diet Dr. Pepper?” We have to figure out ways to find answers to obvious questions that we can’t just ask.

Maybe it’s just looking at and analyzing a lot more data. Among other things, I think the next generation of big data techniques will focus on new methods for understanding the human pysche, so we can below the surface of just spotting patterns. There’s a reason Republicans love Diet Dr. Pepper. There’s a reason Democrats don’t seem to love anything. There’s a non-economic reason Mac users pay more for both computers and hotel rooms. I just want to know what those reasons are.

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  1. Dilip Andrade Thursday, April 12, 2012

    Possibly availability. If Diet Dr. Pepper is more available in certain regions, and those regions overlap largely republican regions, then you have a factor that skews. What would be of more interest is knowing if in areas of high Diet Dr. consumption, the breakdown follows the same breakdown as the general population.

    Another factor may be people seeing surveys like this and thinking “oh god, I don’t want anyone to think I’m republican, I had better stop drinking this stuff”

  2. It sounds like big data is finally getting savvy to Anthropology, investigating “why” things happen, rather than simply quantifying the occurrence of the anomaly itself.

  3. I’d call it the Sarah Palin effect. Gov. Palin loves the stuff.

  4. Psychology to anthropology, anything for better understanding.

  5. Dr. Pepper is the national soda of Texas. Perhaps there’s a correlation between the Diet DP drinkers and residence in TX?

  6. This is unsurprising.

    Dr Pepper (note the lack of period in the name) is from Texas, and its annual report indicates that the five states with the highest per-capita consumption are Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Arkansas, and New Mexico. Outside of that, the Roanoke Valley area of Virginia is one of the highest consuming areas.

    All that seems consistent with a correlation with Republican voters.

    1. Questioned asked and answered. If it’s strictly a regional thing, then it does make a lot of sense. I never associated Dr Pepper with a particular region — I drink it everywhere.

      Although, the regional skew doesn’t seem so strong for other national brands with homes in Democratic or Republican strongholds. Perhaps it says something about loyalty, too.

  7. However, non-Diet Dr Pepper has consumption among geeks of all kinds, whereas Diet Dr Pepper probably has greater consumption only among core Dr Pepper areas.

  8. Dr Pepper was founded In Waco, Texas A city with the largest Baptist University in the world that has a politically conservative student body as well as local population. Given the amount of students who go from there on to other places and spread Dr. Pepper to their conservative associates I’d say there could be a correlation.

  9. Hasn’t everyone been to Graceland, where on the Lisa Marie is a bar complete with a display of Diet Dr Pepper bottles and a sign explaining it was Elvis’s favorite drink?! I don’t know how he voted but he was a religious Southerner and a patriot! Maybe he was a Republican…or maybe Republicans drink it because Elvis did!

  10. It doesn’t have caffeine, which makes it ok for LDS to drink, which correlates with voting Republican.

    1. Now that much I know is untrue. I drink it *because* it has caffeine ;-) Quite a bit, in fact.

    2. Mormons aren’t barred from caffeinated drinks, just Coffee and Tea (Coke is however, not recommended).

  11. Here’s a bit of Diet Dr. Pepper insight. Dr Pepper was founded in Waco, TX way back in the 1880’s. DP is based in Texas and is a very popular statewide, along with other neighboring southern states. Texas is largely Republican. Texas is the 2nd most populated state in the US, accounting for 8%. The other states where DP is popular are also predominately Republican.

  12. because Diet Dr. Pepper tastes like Freedom.

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