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There’s Even a Red-Blue Christmas Shopping Divide

Holiday Shopping Habits Across Red and Blue America 1:29

It’s time for last-minute holiday shopping. And, as we have noted often on "Meet The Press", your political leanings are about more than just your vote. A mix of marketing and self-segregation means they are increasingly about where and how you live.

So today, with Christmas closing in, a look where red and blue Americans may be lining up to make their last-minute purchases.

Using a massive consumer survey, Simmons Research creates an index to show how much more likely or unlikely self-described liberal and conservative Americans are to shop at a long list of stores. In the index 100 equals average, anything above 100 means people are more likely to shop at each store. Under 100 means they are less likely.

We looked at the stores with the highest conservative and liberal index in the category for department, discount and clothing establishments. It reveals some interesting splits.

Three things jump out of the conservative shopping data: A southern feel, sports and Hobby Lobby.

NERDSCREEN CONSERVATIVE SHOPPING GFX 1
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The top store on the list, Belk, is a testament to the fact that geography matters. The department store chain was founded in North Carolina and is based heavily in the south, where there are far more conservative voters. It has leaned heavily on its southern roots with its slogan “Modern. Southern. Style.” Dillard's and Academy are also heavily based in the south.

Three different sporting goods chains make the conservative list, Dunham’s, Academy and Dick’s. That’s a lot when you consider all the different kinds of stores that could appear in this top 10. There is one sports store on the liberal list, but it’s a different sort of chain.

And, of course, many people may remember Hobby Lobby, the arts and crafts chain that went to the Supreme Court to win a religious exemption so that it did not have to cover birth control under the Affordable Care Act. This move put it squarely on the conservative side of two national political fights, disagreements over the health care law and the contraception debate.

The top liberal store list looks very different with an emphasis of urban stores and a mix of higher and lower end retail.

NERDSCREEN SHOPPING CONSERVATIVES LIST
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The sports store on this list, REI, is more about performance hiking boots and $3,000 bikes than soccer balls. And a little further down the list you see the luxury retailer Nordstrom. But at the same time, you see cheap chic retailers such as H&M and Forever 21.

In a way this is a good representation of the self-described liberals we see in polling. Some sit on the economic high-end and some on the lower end, most of whom are younger.

But the big commonality here is the more Democratic-leaning and urban locations.

Consider REI. It has stores in 35 states. Of the 15 states it does not have a location, 11 of them voted for Mitt Romney in 2012. And even in the red states it does have locations, such as Texas, the stores are mostly located in and around big, urban, blue communities: Dallas, Austin, Houston and San Antonio.

Stores that are very popular with liberals OR conservatives are generally not big with liberals AND conservatives. The only exception to that rule is Stein Mart, which over indexes for conservatives and is about average for liberals.

There are probably stores on both these lists that liberals and conservatives don’t recognize. If you live in blue Chicago, you may not know what Belk is. And outside of the city of Norman, there is not a single Forever 21 in deep red Oklahoma.

What’s more, these aren’t all regional chains. Stores like Gap and Banana Republic may seem ubiquitous in some places, but the numbers say they draw largely from a specific pool of customers. The Simmons data also shows a split on who shops at department store giant Macy’s. It over-indexes for liberals with a score of 129.

The point? The splits between red and blue America run deep and play a role in our lives in more ways than we realize. Even acts that are not overtly political have taken on political undertones in 2015 – right down to where you do your holiday shopping.