Friday, April 1, 2005

Your Car: Politics on Wheels

I've always known you could tell quite a bit about someone from the kind of car they drive:

If you had a big black American luxury job with a blacked-out windows and a chauffer, you were a gangster, politician, CEO or movie star. Hmmm, that's redundant, huh?

Drive a Range Rover, you're yuppie scum; a Prius, you're a techno/green geek; A VW Microbus, you're in need of a haircut, a bath, shoes, and you're stoned to the gills and can't see out the back window for all the Grateful Dead stickers; a Volvo, you drive really poorly, because, after all, it's the safest car in a crash, right?

The following article knocks my simplistic theory into a cocked hat. Then again, maybe not. Go read.

From the NYTimes:
"Does she think she knows what I stand for/Or the things that I believe/Just by looking at a sticker for the U.S. Marines/On the bumper of my S.U.V.?"

The lady in the minivan might not know, but some of the finest minds in market research think they do. By analyzing new-car sales, surveying car owners and keeping count of political bumper stickers, they are identifying the differences between Democratic cars and Republican ones.

Some of these differences have more to do with geography than personal politics. Democrats are concentrated in port cities with more links to Europe and Asia, making them more open to foreign car companies. Republicans are more likely to be living in the heartland, where there's room for bigger cars and a tradition of loyalty to the American cars built in nearby factories.

But car buyers are also responding to the political images that come with some cars. Some foreign car companies have marketed cars as environmentally friendly, and some have at times focused on parts of the Democratic base. Saab and Subaru were the first and most visible to aim advertising at gay drivers.

Midsize and large American cars skew Republican, and so, of course, do big American pickup trucks. That may have something to do with American car companies marketing themselves through one of the great symbols of Republicanism, Nascar, which is enormously popular in the red states.

The Political Bumpers spotters, who recorded bumper stickers in favor of or against any of the candidates in the 2004 election, found that the drivers of pickup trucks and large S.U.V.'s were overwhelmingly right-leaning. But the leader of the project, Ryan MacMichael, of Leesburg, Va., said his biggest surprise was the pronounced Democratic skew of bumper stickers on economy cars (71 percent were left-leaning) and station wagons (67 percent).

The most left-leaning models with at least a dozen sightings in Mr. MacMichael's project were the Honda Civic (80-20 left-leaning), Toyota Corolla (78-19) and Toyota Camry (74-26). The list of most right-leaning was led by another Toyota, but a midsize S.U.V., the Toyota 4Runner (86-14), followed by the Ford Expedition (76-24) and Ford F-150 (75-25).

To Mr. Spinella, those bumper stickers merely provided further proof of the most fundamental difference between the two parties.

"Democrats buy cars," he said. "Republicans buy trucks."

Well, Lemme see. The wife's got a four-wheel-drive Dodge Dakota pickup for her daily driver and long trips (we need the full-size bed to haul Mrs. G's "necessaries" on any trip longer than forty miles).

I've got a 4WD Dodge Ramcharger, which dates from before they were called SUV's, thank God. The newer ones ride a lot better. It's more a short wheelbase enclosed farm truck and rides like a buckboard. Hell for stout tho', and goes anywhere.

We've also got a '76 Chevy Van that we bought new. We don't use it much anymore, but it comes in handy on occasion.

Not a "good Democratic car" in the bunch.

The Dodges are red. The van is blue. They all have "Veteran for Kerry" and "U.S. Marine Corps" bumperstickers. We're NASCAR fans, as well as every other form of motor racing, particularly motorcycle flat-track. We're for damn sure not Republicans (shudder at the thought!). And I'm not even a little bit confused about our choice of vehicles or our politics. We're damn good Americans. Say otherwise and watch what happens.

Maybe the study didn't quite go deep enough. Those "finest minds" can kiss my lily-white ass.

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