The Politics of Shopping

As Americans become more politically polarized will we choose to patronize or avoid a store, brand, product, or restaurant based on that corporation’s political activity?

For example, if you are an active Democrat would you avoid Walmart if you knew that their corporate contributions lean towards Republicans?

You could go to Target instead, but their contributions also help fill the GOP coffers.

If this information leaves you feeling in a blue state and you want to shop that way, then head on over to COSTCO where Democrats receive 99% of all contributions.

How about if you are planning a trip to Disneyland and discovered that so far in the 2012 election cycle Disney has made $575,000 in political contributions with $411,000 or 77%  going to Democrats.  Would you change your travel plans?

Is it important for you to know whether the company you are supporting is an R or D before you hand them your hard earned after-tax dollars?

If so, Open Secrets, a unit of the Center for Responsive Politics, makes it easy for consumers to discover just how much corporations are donating to a party and/or candidates.

Besides donations, does the relationship between a company and the President of the United States affect consumer behavior?

A few years back when shopping for a new car, I refused to even consider a GM model because in no way was I was going to support “Government Motors” any more than my tax dollars already had.

It turns out I was not alone in this thinking. Recently the New York Times revealed that in the first quarter of 2012, in a survey of 30,000 Americans shopping for new vehicles, 32 percent said they would not consider a GM car because of the 2009 U.S. Government bail out.

This sentiment was down from 59 percent in 2009, a softening of opinion for sure, but still one-third of all new car shoppers refusing to look at a GM product is one of the most extreme examples of how politics and your wallet are intertwined.

Here is another, albeit on a much smaller scale – but personally meaningful.

During our kitchen remodeling project, I visited Home Depot (Republican leaning by 70%) but refused to buy any General Electric (GE) appliances because at that time GE owned the cable channel MSNBC, which I consider to be a mouth piece for President Obama and full of leftist propaganda.

Furthermore, I knew that the CEO of GE, Jeff Immelt, was a top business advisor to President Obama. So to take some positive action, I marched over to Sears (Republican leaning) and bought all Kenmore appliances. Upon leaving the store I felt extremely empowered by my politically motivated major purchase.

Then shifting to the entertainment front, I will not pay to watch a movie with George Clooney because of the millions he has raised for President Obama.

Perhaps I am too extreme? If, like me, you allow your political views to affect your consumer decisions, you will be interested in this select list of major corporations and their political leanings. More detail is here.

Mega Stores and National Chains

Price Club/Costco: Democrat

Wal-Mart:  Republican

Home Depot: Republican

Target: Republican

McDonald’s: Republican

Well – Known Brands

Estee Lauder: Democrat

B.F. Goodrich Tires: Republican

Proctor & Gamble: Republican

Levi Strauss: Democrat

Martha Stewart: Democrat

Hotel Chains

Hyatt Corporation: Democrat

Holiday Inn: Republican

Marriott International: Republican

Adult Beverages

Coors & Budweiser: Republican

Gallo Winery: Democrat

Joseph E. Seagrams & Sons: Democrat

After arming yourself with information will you try to only patronize companies that are on your political team? Do you believe in politically-empowering your wallet with your consumer decisions?

Before you answer that question, here is an amusing footnote to my avoidance of GE appliances based on a March 20, 2012 piece in the New York Post.

Apparently, General Electric’s CEO Jeff Immelt has now soured on President Obama’s economic policies according to this report by Charles Gasparino, a well known business reporter.

Although Immelt is still serving as a top outside economic advisor to the White House, Immelt “is appalled by everything from the president’s class-warfare rhetoric to his continued belief that big government is the key to economic salvation.”

Now I am thinking that if this report had come out just a month earlier I might have applauded Mr. Immelt and, as a result, my new kitchen appliances might today be GE Profile instead of Sears Kenmore.

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