You Think What You Eat?

Back in December I brought you the latest social science findings about the ideological meaning of . . . coffee choices. Sure enough, liberals do drink more lattes than conservatives, in part, the authors of the study speculated, because a preference for latte could somehow be connected to a more cosmopolitan, internationalist outlook, whereas the xenophobia of conservatives inclined them against liking Eurotrash beverages. Whatever. But the joke was on the latte liberals, as the authors noted that lattes actually have more domestic content than the average black cup of joe, because the milk came from all-American cows. I’m guessing, by the way, that latte liberals haven’t thought through how their lattes will suffer when the Green Nude Eel eradicates all those farting cows. (Sorry, but almond and soy milk just don’t cut it.)

Well, now we have a sequel, from the Journal of Computational Social Science, that looks at food preferences and ideology. Like the coffee study, conservatives tend to like and celebrate fast food, while liberals like tofu and such. Here’s the abstract, which is offered with a straight face:

Food preferences not only originate from a person’s dietary habits, but also reflect personal values and consumer awareness. This study addresses “food identity” or the relationship between food preferences and personal attributes based on the concept of “food left-wing” (e.g., vegetarians) and “food right-wing” (e.g., fast-food lovers) by analyzing social data using information entropy and networks. The results show that food identity extends beyond the domain of food: The food left-wing has a strong interest in socio-environmental issues, while the food right-wing has a higher interest in large-scale shopping malls and politically conservative issues. Furthermore, the social interactions of food left-wing and right-wing factions show segregated structures, indicating different information consumption patterns. These findings suggest that food identity may be applicable as a proxy for personal attributes and offer insights into potential buying patterns.

Now, I really have to wonder if this study isn’t a great put-on or hoax from someone emulating the merry pranksters who hoaxed the identity politics journals a few months back. Because the methodology of the study consists entirely of a detailed analysis of . . . Twitter posts! Capnip for our intelligentsia that thinks social media is the center of the universe.

There’s some high comedy in the main text of the study, especially Footnote 2:

2. Note that a health freak is a person extremely enthusiastic about health.

Glad they cleared that up.

But there’s also lots of terrific comic material like this:

These findings indicate that the food left-wing has strong feelings about animal welfare and strongly shirks from the idea of artificially manipulating animals. . .

The food right-wing group preferred most of the technology firms except for Apple and Sony. In the retail space, the food right-wing showed a markedly higher interest in IKEA and Costco. Incidentally, Starbucks—which we mentioned in the introduction—showed an expected high level of interest among the food left-wing. Further differences were seen in the beverage space where the food left-wing showed strong interest in overseas beer brands like Corona, while the food right-wing showed high interest in energy drink brands like Red Bull. A counter intuitive finding is that the food left-wing’s positive interest in soda, especially in Pepsi. We observed positive tweets, such as “Pepsi is way tastier than Coke. As for Guarana, it’s a bit in the middle…” The food-left wing showed a higher interest prefers in most of the automobile brands except Toyota.

What would we do without social scientists? Or is this a rejected script for a Bill Maher routine?


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