Infographic: Our Fast-Food Preferences As A Window Onto Politics

You are where you eat.

Don’t talk politics: It’s a basic rule of business. So when the anti-gay marriage articulations of Chick-fil-A President Dan Cathy went viral last month, they should’ve sliced, or at least dented, the company’s bottom line. Instead, they seemed to bolster it. Last Wednesday, the fast-food chain posted record sales, after Mike Huckabee called—inevitably—for a Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day.

How the hell did Chick-fil-A profit off this?

Will Feltus, a media researcher at National Media in Alexandria, Virgina, and Mike Shannon, a partner at the policy consultancy Vianovo in Austin, Texas, say that "the answer lies in the partisanship of fast-food consumers," as they wrote in the L.A. Times this weekend. And the Times provided this handy, if crude, bubble chart as evidence:

Each bubble represents a chain restaurant (or, in one case, a grocery store), and its size reveal what percentage of U.S. adults reported patronizing that restaurant in the last 30 days, according to a Scarborough Research survey. The X axis shows where most consumers lie on the red-blue continuum, and the Y axis shows the "voter turnout index"—how likely diners will vote. So where a restaurant falls in those four quadrants tells us how Democratic or Republican surveyed customers are, and how much power they wield at the ballot box. Note that Chick-fil-A’s patrons count among the most Republican in the country, surpassed only by Cracker Barrel. Those of Church’s, Popeyes, White Castle, and Whole Foods lean Democratic.

Glancing over this, it’d be easy to conclude that the crappy restaurants with which we abuse our digestive systems are somehow political destiny: That we are, as the Times says, what we eat. But that suggests causation where there is only correlation. What the chart actually reveals is the geographic distribution of chain restaurants across America. Chick-fil-A and Cracker Barrel are mostly confined to the southern United States and rural areas, which skew Republican. Church’s, Popeyes, and White Castle appear in cities, which skew Democratic. McDonald’s, Pizza Hut, and Subway are pretty much smack dab in the middle of the chart—not surprising, given that they’re all over America. We are where we eat.

[H/t L.A. Times]

[Image: Shcherbakov Ilya/Shutterstock]

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