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Brand names split along red-blue lines

An ad agency survey finds Wal-Mart does better in red states, while Target is preferred in blue states. But there are some surprising points of agreement among Bush and Kerry supporters.
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Bush voters like Wal-Mart, while Kerry voters prefer Target. Bush voters like Microsoft, and Kerry voters are more likely to be fans of Dell. But when it comes to remodeling, there is no political divide — everybody likes Home Depot.

Those are some of the findings of an ad agency survey on consumer attitudes in red and blue states as President Bush prepared to be inaugurated for a second term.

“As ad people we see ourselves as first and foremost cultural anthropologists, and we wanted to answer the question, ‘Why is this red-blue hangover lasting right into the inauguration?’” said Marian Salzman, a marketing consultant who helped develop the survey for global giant J. Walter Thompson. “This divide seems to be lasting longer than ever before.”

Just as a hammer sees the whole world as a nail, to an ad agency the world is one giant brand. So the pollsters set about testing some of the nation’s biggest brand names — traditional and non-traditional — among Bush and Kerry voters.

In general, the two camps came up with some very similar results. For example, when asked which companies are making a “positive contribution to American life,” both Bush and Kerry supporters gave the highest marks to Johnson & Johnson, maker of Band-Aids, Tylenol and a wide range of medical devices and prescription drugs. Microsoft and United Parcel Service rounded out the top three for both groups.

When asked which were the best “American” brands among a list of 50, Kerry and Bush voters both listed the same top four in order:  Coca-Cola, Microsoft, Disney and Harley-Davidson. (MSNBC is a joint venture of Microsoft and NBC.)

There were differences, too.

Bush voters had more positive feelings about corporate America in general. On average red-state men identified eight companies they thought were “gaining stature,” while blue-state men listed fewer than seven companies. Women in both red and blue states listed about five companies. Retailers Kroger, Sears and Lowe’s all performed significantly better among red-state respondents.

There was surprising agreement among respondents in both red and blue states when questioned about two non-traditional "brands" as defined by the ad agency.

Of the 1,002 people questioned, 51 percent of those in both red states, which voted for Bush, and blue states, which favored Kerry, agreed with the statement, “The Bush family is a well-managed brand.” Only 36 percent in blue states and 37 percent in red states agreed that “America is a well-managed brand.”

Other questions revealed sharp differences in attitude. For instance 72 percent of those in red states said they “feel good about the way the American government has reacted to the tsunami crisis,” while only 65 percent in blue states agreed. The online survey was conducted Jan. 10-11.

Red state residents were more likely to consider themselves religious, although the difference was not huge, especially among women. Red-state women were much more likely to be divorced than their blue-state counterparts. (The difference was less pronounced for men – possibly the result of red-blue intermarriage?)

The survey also offered a hint on why Democratic Sen. John Kerry lost the election: Red-state men appear to be more politically active and involved in their community.

Only 70 percent of men in blue states said they were registered to vote, compared with 80 percent in red states. And of those registered to vote, 18 percent of men in blue states said they did not vote in November, compared with only 12 percent in red states.

Nevertheless 48 percent of blue-state men considered themselves “well-informed” on international affairs, compared with only 38 percent of men in red states.