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Liberal or Conservative? Where you shop reveals how you vote

Crate & Barrel, L.L.Bean and Sephora: Where you shop during the Christmas holiday season reveals a lot about how you vote.
The line to check out winds through the store during the traditional Black Friday shopping day at the Target store in Mayfield Hts., Ohio on Friday, Nov. 27, 2009.   (AP Photo/Amy Sancetta)
The line to check out winds through the store during the traditional Black Friday shopping day at the Target store in Mayfield Hts., Ohio on Friday, Nov. 27, 2009. (AP Photo/Amy Sancetta)Amy Sancetta / AP

If you’re like most Americans you’ve probably spent a lot of time, and money, online doing holiday shopping this year. Americans planned to spend over 50 percent of their holiday budget online, according to one fall shopping survey.

And when you clicked around various online retailers you may have revealed a bit about your politics, according to data from Hitwise.

The online retailers where you’re most likely to find conservative Republican and liberal Democratic shoppers this holiday season look very different from each other. And they reveal a lot about the people who make up the far ends of the two parties in 2017.

Conservative Republicans: Power Tools and Punch Bowls

The list of retailers for people who identify as conservative Republicans is a collection of online stores specializing in tough-man tools and chic housewares. Stores like Grainger and Northern Tool share space with Pottery Barn and Williams Sonoma.

At first blush, that may seem a confused mish-mash of outlets. How big can the overlap possibly be between those who want a Jura Giga X7 Automatic Coffee Center (on sale for $8999.95) and a Makita 11 amp Belt Sander ($289.99)?

But that’s looking at this list the wrong way. In fact, the Hitwise “conservative Republican” list makes a lot of sense as a sign of the internal tensions within the GOP. It’s a mix of stores aimed at establishment GOPers (wealthy, white-collar expensive coffee machine types) and President Donald Trump’s more blue-collar version of the party (power tools and hunting gear).

Also on the list is L.L. Bean, a company that President Trump supported in a January tweet – “Buy L.L. Bean” – after the heiress of the company’s founder appeared on television defending her contributions to Trump. And Lands’ End, a solid, if not flashy, clothing-retailer, also makes the conservative Republican top 10.

Liberal Democrats: Young and Fashion-Oriented

It’s much easier to spy a pattern in the list for online liberal Democratic shoppers. There are many retailers that target a younger, more female audience, particularly where clothes and fashion are concerned: Forever 21, Sephora, ASOS.

Not all these stores are aimed at women, of course. Gap sells clothes to both genders, as does Express. But modern style, particularly inexpensive modern style, is the key element in many of the stores on this list. That makes sense, of course, when you think of the age of liberal Democrats, who tend to be younger than Republicans when pollsters ask party identification questions.

And even though this is a list of online retailers, there is a real-world geographic component to much of it. The stores’ brick-and-mortar locations tend to be heavily based in urban areas, just like liberal Democratic voters.

When you shop at Urban Outfitters online you can be anywhere, but the store’s physical locations are clustered around big cities and college towns. There are only 53 Bloomingdale’s store locations in the United States, but they are all based near big metro areas.

The list is evidence that your everyday, real-life experiences color the world you see and inhabit, even when you are shopping online, where geography doesn’t really matter.

Coming Together

You may notice there is one store that makes both the conservative Republican and liberal Democrat lists: Crate & Barrel. In a country that is politically divided and self-segregated on so many points, that’s an accomplishment. Apparently, conservative or liberal, everyone needs a good 12-ounce water goblet for the holidays.

And there was another store more directly tied to politics in 2017 that scored well for both conservatives and liberals in the Hitwise data:

The online retailer is new and its audience is still relatively small. It sells goods with ties to the Trump brand including a women’s golf jacket (bearing the Trump insignia on the chest), a Toddler-sized Trump Polo and a Trump coin bank that looks like a gold bar.

In the Hitwise data, both conservatives and liberals were more likely than the average American to visit the site, though perhaps for different reasons – one group cheering, the other one jeering. People who described their politics as “middle of the road” were less likely to visit the site.

In that way, the holiday data around is reminiscent of the year as a whole in politics. Some people love him and others hate him, but if you are interested in Washington’s prime industry, it’s hard not to talk about President Donald Trump – even when shopping online.