You could probably guess that Prius drivers tend to be Democrats and Hummer drivers tend to be Republicans. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg on car-and-driver political connections, writes John Tierney in The New York Times, summarizing new market research that I find both fascinating and hilarious.  

Jaguars, Land Rovers, and Jeep Grand Cherokees are very “Republican” vehicles. Volvos are the most “Democratic” cars, followed by Subarus and Hyundais. (Funny comment from Slate columnist Mickey Kaus: “Subaru is the new Volvo –that is, it is what Volvos used to be: trusty, rugged, inexpensive, unpretentious, performs well, maybe a bit ugly. You don’t buy it because you want to show you have money; you buy it because you have college-professor values.”)Dems drive SUVs too, but usually smaller, foreign-brand ones, compared to red voters with their big, American-brand behemoths. And yet, the Democratic inclination toward smaller vehicles isn’t necessarily driven by concern over fuel economy: “Besides having fewer children, Democrats tend to be younger, less affluent and more likely to live in cities where small cars are easier to park,” Tierney writes.

Republicans lean toward American cars (or, well, at least cars made by companies whose headquarters are in the U.S., even if all their factories aren’t) while Democrats buy the majority of compact foreign cars (or, well, compacts made by companies whose headquarters are abroad, even if they have factories smack dab in the middle of red states). An exception: Mini Coopers, which Dems and Republicans favor in equal proportion.

This section about minivans and gender dynamics particularly cracked me up:

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[A survey by CNW Marketing Research] found that minivans skewed blue … At first glance, this might seem odd, because Republican car buyers tended to have more children — 3.5 on average, versus 1.7 for the Democratic buyers. …

“You might think with all the kids, they’d want the practicality of a minivan,” said Art Spinella, the president of CNW. But practicality was not the Republican customer’s highest priority, as Mr. Spinella’s company discovered by tracking the customers throughout the buying process.

“There is a certain resistance that male new-car buyers have to minivans even in a household with two or three kids,” Mr. Spinella explained. “For the most part, red-state households are more male-dominated when it comes to decision-making for a vehicle. In blue states, it’s more of a joint decision-making process.” Because the Democratic women get more of a say in the decision, their families end up with more minivans than S.U.V.’s.

More amusing bits:

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“All surveys found that nothing is more Republican than a big pickup. ‘The No. 1 vehicle bought by millionaires is the Ford F-Series pickup truck,’ Mr. Spinella said. ‘They’re farmers, ranchers, contractors, independent businesspeople. They basically work for themselves and they have substantial assets.'”


Saturn owners “skew heavily Democratic … Mr. Kaus says they appeal to Democrats because they are ‘clunky, Earth Shoe-like cars.'”


A survey of political bumper stickers on cars in 2004 found that Honda Civics were highly blue, by 80 to 20 percent, while Toyota 4Runners were highly red, 86 to 14 percent.

Spinella sums it up: “Democrats buy cars. Republicans buy trucks.”

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