Do People’s Political Views Extend to their Brand and Consumer Preferences?

New Research Says “Yes”

Key Takeaways: 

  • A person’s political views influence their brand preferences as a consumer.
  • Media organizations and brands saw a shift in their consumer followership as a result of their political stances or identities.


BALTIMORE, MD, January 3, 2023 – The political divide in America is evident everywhere you look, from news to social media. But do people’s politics extend to their brand and consumer preferences? A new study says yes. 

The study, published in the current issue of the INFORMS journal Marketing Science, is titled “Polarized America: From Political Polarization to Preference Polarization” and is authored by Verena Schoenmueller of ESADE and Universitat Ramon Llull in Barcelona, Spain, and Bocconi University in Milan, Italy; Oded Netzer of Columbia Business School; and Florian Stahl of the University of Mannheim in Germany.

“Political orientation has been shown to extend to many different aspects of life,” says the paper’s first  author Schoenmueller. “These include a person’s social identity and personality. Previous research has proven that conservatives and liberals exhibit different patterns in day-to-day behaviors such as grocery shopping, movie choices, recycling, charity choices, lifestyle choices and even how they handle complaints and disputes.”

This new research has found that political polarization extends further into the lives of consumers. The authors found that there is increased polarization in preferences, behavioral intentions and actual purchase decisions for consumer brands. Following the election to the presidency of Donald Trump in 2016, there was a stronger increase in polarization among liberals as compared to conservatives. This was driven by their demand for “Democratic brands” to further emphasize their political stance.

“We also found that after 2016, certain brands themselves took a political stance after they observed a shift in their customer base in terms of their own political affiliations,” says Stahl.

To conduct their research, the authors used three different data sets: publicly available social media data of more than 3 million brand followerships of Twitter users; a YouGov brand-preference tracking survey; and Nielson scanner panel data including millions of grocery product purchases. The authors used this data to assess the evolution of brand-preference polarization.

“Across these three data sets, representing different modes of behavior, we found consistent evidence for brand-preference polarization after the 2016 election,” says Netzer. “Members of the politically threatened group (Liberals) took compensatory actions such as following certain brands they perceived identified as more liberal.”

To illustrate their findings, the researchers pointed out that after the 2016 election on Twitter, the media brands of The New Yorker and The Atlantic became even more Democratic leaning, whereas Fox News and Fox Business News became even more Republican as defined by the make-up of their followers. Brands that took a political stance, such as Nike and Nordstrom, then saw a significant shift in the political affiliation of their Twitter follower base.

The authors made a publicly available website to explore and depict the political affiliation of more than 1,000 brands and organizations based on their Twitter data set.


Link to Study


About INFORMS and Marketing Science

Marketing Science is a premier peer-reviewed scholarly marketing journal focused on research using quantitative approaches to study all aspects of the interface between consumers and firms. It is published by INFORMS, the leading international association for operations research and analytics professionals. More information is available at or @informs.


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Do People’s Political Views Extend to their Brand and Consumer Preferences?

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