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Different Worlds: What Your Favorite Restaurant Might Say About Your Vote

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A chesseburgerMarius Becker / picture-alliance / dpa via AP file

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Backers of Kansas independent Greg Orman and Republican Pat Roberts are all talking about the same issues. But as they go about their daily lives, they’re probably not talking about those issues to each other, because they’re living in very different worlds.

This week, Facebook gave NBC News a glimpse into what is trending among voters in Kansas, Iowa and Wisconsin -- the states Meet the Press moderator Chuck Todd will visit in the first week of his “Meet the Voters” road trip.

In Kansas, for example, the number one political topic being discussed on Facebook by both candidates’ supporters is foreign policy, with immigration, economic equality and fiscal issues close behind.

None of that is a surprise. NBC’s polling has shown consistently that voters are interested in these topics – and ads hammering away on these issues are fueling the conversation.

But the Facebook data shows something else about behavior that our polling can’t capture: the intersection of politics, culture and food.

The anecdotal evidence from Facebook shows that while voters on different sides of the aisle are worried about the same things, they just don’t hang out in the same places. When you remove national chains from the lists, voters who do not see eye-to-eye on candidates are also not fans of any of the same restaurants or stores.

Supporters of current Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback (R), for example, enjoy dining at Paul’s Drive In in Kansas City or Saints Pub Lenexa in Lenexa, where the World Series specials tonight are $6 Grand Margaritas and $5.99 all-you-can-eat beef tacos.

But precisely none of the same restaurants show up in the top five favorites of his Democratic challenger’s supporters. Paul Davis, the Democrat running to unseat Brownback, is far more likely to find his fans at the Donut Whole in Wichita or the upscale 715 Restaurant -- whose fifth anniversary tasting menu includes grilled goat and smoked beets.

The same goes for retail stores. Brownback fans feel at home at Diamond R. Jewelry Corp in Hays and farming supplier Bruna Implement Company, while Davis supporters like the Lawrence Farmers Market and record store Love Garden Sounds.

If this trend had only shown up in Kansas, it might seem like a fluke. But Facebook crunched the numbers in all of the states the “Meet the Voters” RV is rolling into, and the same thing kept showing up.

In Wisconsin, the dividing lines between where Gov. Scott Walker (R) fans live versus challenger Mary Burke (D) were a little more stark. Three out of the top five restaurants disproportionately liked by Burke supporters were in the college town of Madison, WI. Despite being the capital of the state, none of the restaurants in the top five list for Walker supporters was in Madison. None. His fans overwhelmingly prefer the Mineshaft in Hartford, WI.

In Iowa, the favorite dining establishments of Republicans and Democrats are both in Des Moines, but they feature slightly different delicacies. Republicans favor the Iowa State Fair’s Cattlemen’s Beef Quarters, featuring the “hot beef sundae.” Democrats dig downtown’s Zombie Burger, where you can devour a burger patty between two grilled cheese sandwiches.

As the American Communities Project explored earlier this year, where you live and where you dine can correlate to how you vote.

“How deeply the red/blue divide cuts through the country,” said American University’s Dante Chinni. “Increasingly Americans not only have different political beliefs, we really do live in different worlds.”

Different worlds – with very different lunch orders too.

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