Americans are haunted by a fear that they may buy cheese made by someone whose opinions they do not share. To help people avoid this calamity, a new app called BuyPartisan reveals whether any given product is made by Republicans or Democrats.
BuyPartisan’s maker, Spend Consciously, was founded by a former Capitol Hill staffer, Matthew Colbert. He is cagey about whether he is a Democrat or a Republican, but hopes that the app will eventually include data on things like how firms treat their employees. It has caused a stir in Washington, where political junkies have had fun testing whether their favorite snacks are red or blue. But will it affect American shopping habits?
Using an iPhone’s camera, it scans the barcode and reports back on the ideology (as measured by donations to political parties) of the directors and staff of the company in question. Obsessive partisans can then demonstrate their commitment to diversity by boycotting firms with which they disagree. “We vote every day with our wallets,” trills an advert.
A mother with a baby strapped to her chest in a Safeway supermarket in Washington explains, “The idea of scanning every sausage or toilet roll for its political affiliation is just crazy”, she says. “If I want to eat gummy bears, I will eat gummy bears. I don’t care if they’re Republican.” For some products, there is no obvious alternative. Democrats whose cars run out of petrol, for example, will probably fill up at the nearest petrol station, even though oil firms donate mostly to Republicans.
Republicans and Democrats do have different shopping habits, observes Vishal Singh, an academic who studies marketing at NYU Stern. Republicans tend to drink more American beers; Democrats more foreign and craft brews. In Republican-voting districts Cracker Barrel, a southern-themed restaurant, is common; upscale Whole Foods shops cluster in Democratic areas. But this mostly reflects the different lives Democrats and Republicans lead. Southern food is popular, unsurprisingly, in the South, which is heavily Republican. Costly groceries are popular with affluent urbanites, who tend to be Democrats.
Will you use this app when you go shopping?
NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote!
Michael H. Drucker
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