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I just found out I’m a Republican. (cross-post)

Hello! It’s wonderful to be invited to write a guest post here on Kim’s fabulous, data-geeky blog. The following post was originally published on my World Citizen blog earlier this month, and Kim and I thought it was relevant to this blog as well.

“I just found out I’m a Republican” was inspired by articles published earlier this year in the New York Times, among other places, about data on consumer habits and political party affiliations. It seemed evident to me that the data had no relevance to anyone except those who control the campaign marketing budgets, and yet articles for the general public were written. Hence a satirical post exploring what it might look like for a member of the general public (me) to try to use the data. Enjoy!

Was talking to my mother yesterday morning about her upcoming visit to Portland. She’s been wanting to see the Chinese garden for ages, so we were talking about doing that. And then she got really excited and said, “Ooh! And we could eat at Macaroni–. Oh.” Her voice dropped a couple octaves in energy and pitch. “Well I was going to say we could eat at Macaroni Grill, but Republicans eat there.” What?

She’d read an article about the study by National Media correlating consumer spending habits to political party affiliation. She said Republicans eat at Taco Bell and McDonald’s too. Concerned about my potential subconscious right-leaning tendencies I did a search on the Internets and found this article by Thomas B. Edsall, a fairly regular Op-Ed contributor to the New York Times. And folks, the evidence against me is overwhelming: I am a Republican.

While I don’t eat at Macaroni Grill all too often, I do enjoy it, which suggests I might be a Republican. Other Republican restaurants I will eat at include Outback Steakhouse and Dairy Queen. But the truly damning evidence in this category is my fairly frequent patronization of Starbucks and Taco Bell. The only restaurant on the Democrat side I’ll eat at is Domino’s, and that’s just because they’re cheap and close. (In reality I prefer Papa John’s Pizza, but I just learned the other day that he’s arguing that the new national healthcare law will have a devastating effect on pizza-eaters: it will up the price of a large pizza by 14 cents. My preference for his company’s pizza suggests an obvious anti-Obamacare attitude.)

Internet usage:
Not only do I use the Internet for ridiculous amounts of time each day (“Republicans overall tend to spend more time on the Internet”), but I use it for blogging, checking the weather, and yes, even e-mail (gasp!). On occasion I will use the Internet for financial info/services (checking my account balance) and paying bills. All signs that point to Republican. My only left-leaning Internet activity is that I participate in an online dating site, but this won’t help the Democrats much, as my participation in online dating also suggests that I am unlikely to vote.

The fact that I like half the shows listed as “top-ten Republican-tilted shows”–and in fact have an undying love for The Mentalist and Castle–and have never heard of, much less watched, most of the “top ten most Democratic-leaning shows” is clear proof of unwitting Republicanism.

Drinking habits & automobile:
My two saving graces, which point more toward Democrat, are the fact that I drive a Honda (though it would be more Democrat-like if it were a hybrid) and my preference for tequila and Corona over bourbon and Sam Adams.

So…yeah. I don’t know what to tell you. I was as shocked as you are, but I can’t refute the evidence. According to my consumer habits, I am most definitely a Republican.

But there is hope: I can change those consumer habits to be more Democrat-like. Let’s put aside for the moment the fact that I am registered to vote as neither Democrat nor Republican and focus instead on how I can ensure that my spending habits fit more neatly into the left-leaning branch of this two-party system. I can use the Internet less and start watching PBS. I can go to Chuck-E Cheese’s and Popeyes instead of Taco Bell. I can stop checking my email. But a decision like this should not be taken lightly. Luckily I have three months to decide which is the greater evil: giving up Taco Bell or voting for Romney.

Posted in data & politics, What is "actionable data"?

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