Settled Science: There Really Are ‘Latte Liberals’

I’m sure most readers took note of the hoax identity politics academic journal articles recently, but I have found a real article that you could easily suppose to be a hoax. The article is “The Real Reason Liberals Drink Lattes,” and it appears in PS, which is a secondary journal of the American Political Science Association (APSA). (That’s PS, not BS, you wiseacres out there!)

This relevant bit of social science deserves to be savored at length, especially as the article is behind a paywall that costs more than a week’s quota of liberal lattes. The authors examine and test with data four hypotheses for why liberals may drink more lattes than normal Americans (my term, not theirs). I especially like the third hypothesis:

It is well established in American politics that women are more liberal than men (Kittilson 2016). What is less well known is that women also are more likely to drink lattes. Based on coffee-preference data collected by Zagats, lattes are the favorite drink among women at 22%, with regular coffee trailing closely behind at 19% (Brown 2015). The preferred drink among men is regular coffee at 30%, with espresso next best at 14% (Hernandez 2015). Thus, latte-drinking liberals may be a spurious function of women’s preferences for lattes.

Are you allowed to say this in an academic journal these days? It gets even better when you introduce the “pumpkin spice latte” into the variables:

Why are men averse to lattes? According to qualitative inter- views conducted at Starbucks (Tourjee and Ettachfini 2017), men view lattes as “girly” drinks, ordered in hushed tones when ordered at all. This is clearest in the case of the politically-charged pumpkin spice latte, which is apparently “inexorably coded as feminine” (Tourjee and Ettachfini 2017). Indeed, some deem hating on pumpkin spice lattes to be a form of sexism that invalidates women’s preferences relative to men’s (Timpf 2015). Thus, those who describe lattes as frothy and insubstantial are implicitly indicting women as the same.

I knew it. Black coffee is just another marker of patriarchy.

But things get really fun with the fourth hypothesis: that conservative distaste for latte is an expression of anti-globalization sentiment (the authors don’t say xenophobia, but we know what they mean):

A fourth possibility is that conservatives may be less likely to drink lattes as a function of their disdain for globalization. The difference between liberals and conservatives on this  issue has come to the fore with Donald Trump’s presidency, but the pattern dates back to at least the early twenty-first century. . .  A burgeoning literature on “consumer ethnocentrism” suggests that high levels of nationalistic sentiment and opposition to trade promote consumer avoidance of foreign-sounding products (Shimp and Sharma 1987). “Latte” is an Italian word and, most importantly, it is clearly not American in terms of its linguistic roots. . .

Nationalism is higher among conservatives than liberals; therefore, America-centric purchasing behavior by conservatives may be responsible for an association between latte drinking and liberalness.

But after testing each hypothesis with some “data,” the authors serve up a delightful twist ending:

[N]ationalism does indeed negatively predict latte drinking. . .  Why should liberals and conservatives differ systematically on hot beverage choices that have no apparent substantive relevance to political ideology? Our analyses suggest that attitudes toward foreign-sounding products are responsible for the fact that conservatives are less likely to drink lattes than liberals. Conservatives shun lattes because they sound foreign. Foreign-sounding produce has been a death knell for conservative support at least since Michael Dukakis suggested that farmers in the breadbasket of America cure their economic malaise by growing Belgian endive. . .

The term highlights the more positive attitude of liberals toward globalization. Drinking lattes thus should be interpreted as a statement about one’s willingness to embrace open markets. Liberals are more likely to embrace the contributions of other countries to US culture and to favor international trade. . .

But, the twist is that as most coffee is grown overseas, while latte uses large amount of domestically produced milk, the deplorable Trump voter who drinks black coffee (and probably more of it than a liberal—how many liberals carry a tall thermos to their worksite?) is actually drinking a more purely foreign product than the latte liberal. The authors explain with perfect deadpan effect:

So while a conservative might feel smug and patriotic avoiding a latte in favor of regular coffee, drinking either product on the Starbucks menu contributes to the international coffee economy as well as to the US domestic economy. Furthermore, if one had to select a product that contributes more to the domestic economy, it would be the latte because of the added milk. The United States is the single largest producer of cow’s milk in the world (Agricultural Marketing Resource Center 2012); therefore, by purchasing lattes, liberals are going the extra yard for the domestic economy.

Yeah, and all those flatulent cows are contributing to global warming, too. Another example of liberal hypocrisy at work. Ban lattes now. Save the planet.

Take it away, Ammo Grrrll.

UPDATE: I forgot this chart from the article.


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