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Consumer Preferences of the Wealthy: Part Two

Posted by on Jul 13, 2011 in Blog | 0 comments

In the last post, I explored a series of consumer demographic data points that a wide variety of wealthy subgroups had in common, irrespective of differences in political partisanship or living environment.  Now I want to turn my focus to consumer demographics that divide along ideological grounds.  For this, I grouped together respondents from the wealthiest zip codes in major metropolitan areas.  For liberal wealthy, I have subgroups from Manhattan, Westchester County (NY), Northwest Washington DC, Montgomery County (MD), and Westside Los Angeles.  For the conservative wealthy, I have cohorts from Orange County (CA), separate urban and suburban groupings in Dallas and Houston, and the top zip codes in the Atlanta and Nashville areas.  I also had moderate control groups in Northern Virginia and suburban Detroit.

Among the findings:

  • Personal wealth: Liberal areas generally have more money.  Manhattan and Westchester Counties have the highest percentage of respondents making over $250,000.  Much of this is due to the high cost of living in coastal areas.  The suburban areas of places like Nashville and Dallas do not have quite as much in pure dollar earnings, but once cost of living is factored in; there is likely no difference in standard of living.
  • Education: All sets are well educated.  Liberals are more likely to have received post-graduate degrees.  Over 40% of NY and DC elites received post-graduate degrees.  For rich conservatives, the percentage is in the 20s.  It could be said that rich liberals are those with more education than money and rich conservatives are those with more money than education.
  • Hunting: There is a clear ideological divide.  Rich conservatives go hunting in numbers typical of their neighbors.  Rich liberals almost never hunt, and are less likely to do so than regular income residents of their generally liberal areas.
  • Environment: There are two different types of environmentalism.  One type is based on personal consumption habits.  Whether we are talking about buying eco-friendly cleaning products, buying locally grown food, or recycling, there is no difference among rich conservatives and liberals.  Both are much more likely than average to do such activities.  The difference comes when we talk about environmentalism as a cause.  Wealthy liberals give strongly to environmental groups.  Wealthy conservatives do give more than the regional average, but the regional average for places like Dallas, Houston, and Atlanta are very low to begin with.  Liberals are much more likely to support politicians based on their environmental positions.  This generally isn’t a consideration for conservatives.  The difference here is consumption versus activism.
  • Vehicles: Liberals are somewhat more likely to own a hybrid than conservatives.  Conservative elites are more likely than others surrounding them to have a hybrid, but their ownership rates are nothing out of the ordinary.  On the other hand, conservatives are more likely to own motorcycles, while liberals generally eschew them.
  • College football: There is a marked difference between liberals and conservatives in regards to interest in college football.  Of the liberal subgroups, only Westside LA (home of UCLA) has an interest level approaching average.  The conservative elites are big fans of Saturday football.  This was one of the starkest differences I found.
  • Soccer: Liberals express an interest in European soccer many times greater than the general population.  Conservatives do not, and their interest in soccer isn’t much different from the typical resident of their area.
  • High school sports: Affluent conservatives are more into high school sports.  It is worth pointing out that conservative elites aren’t the diehards that some others around them are.  Wealthy liberals generally aren’t interested in following high school sports.
  • Special TV programs: Liberals are more likely to watch Academy Awards, while conservatives have above average viewing of country music awards shows.  Conservatives were at average rates for viewing beauty pageants, liberals do not watch them.  Liberals were especially likely to watch the Kennedy Center Honors and the Tony Awards.
  • Public radio/TV: Rich liberals are the lifeblood of public radio and TV.  They are the best givers in the nation.  Conservatives are more likely than their neighbors to give to public broadcasting, but their levels of support do not compare to their liberal counterparts.
  • Grocery stores: Whole Foods is beloved by liberals.  Conservatives do shop there disproportionately as well, but not to the same degree.  Conservatives are more likely to go to the same big grocery stores that everyone else goes to, such as Kroger, Publix, and Costco.
  • Cable news: It is no surprise that Fox News is more popular among conservatives.  What is more interesting is that MSNBC barely beats out Fox News even in liberal enclaves.  The liberal elite actually prefer CNN as a viewing choice.  One caveat is that this measures whether a channel was viewed in the past seven days, not something like length of time that stationed was watched.

Next time, I will explore the differences between urban and suburban wealthy.

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