Partisan Food Choices: New Study Finds Republicans Prefer Meat More Than Democrats Do

Republicans tend to prefer meat while Democrats lean towards plant-based foods, reflecting ideological differences in taste and consumption habits.

A new study finds that Republicans have a greater preference for meat and a higher intention to consume it, while Democrats are more inclined towards plant-based foods.

The fabric of our political beliefs is often thought to influence our decisions in voting booths and civic life, but a new study has extended this thread to the very food we consume.

Researchers at Bowling Green State University and the University of Massachusetts Amherst have unveiled compelling evidence that political partisanship in the United States might also dictate our taste for meat or plant-based diets.

Their study, which was published on November 4 in the journal Food Quality and Preference, presents a nuanced picture of how deeply interwoven our political identities are with our everyday choices, including the seemingly apolitical act of eating.

Methodology: A Blend of Surveys and Sensory Tests

Participants across the political spectrum were surveyed to determine their expected taste perceptions and intentions to consume meat and plant-based foods.

This was complemented by sensory tests, where individuals were presented with these foods accompanied by partisan endorsements, to measure the actual experienced taste.

The participants for the studies were recruited using Amazon’s Mechanical Turk, which is an online platform commonly used for academic research to gather a diverse sample of respondents from the United States.

The first study involved 886 people.

It looked at how different messages about food could influence what people think about the taste of meat and plant-based foods before they even try them, based on who supports that kind of food (Republicans, Democrats, or no political party affiliation), and also based on what benefits that food might have (health, environment, or no specific benefit mentioned).

In the second study, the researchers asked 211 people to actually taste and rate a plant-based meatball and a “real” meat meatball.

They wanted to see if matching the political party of the message (like saying a certain food is supported by Republicans if the taster is a Republican) would change how good people thought the food tasted, and whether it would affect their interest in buying it.


The results showed that Democrats expected plant-based foods to taste better and showed a higher intention to purchase them, whereas Republicans had a higher taste expectation and intention to purchase meat, regardless of the health or environmental messages presented.

This could be reflective of conservative values that emphasize tradition and the status quo, where meat has historically been a central component of American meals.

Conversely, Democrats exhibited a stronger preference for plant-based foods, aligning with their broader environmental and ethical concerns that are often associated with liberal ideologies.

This preference extended beyond mere taste, impacting their buying intentions and reported consumption habits.

These results point to a deeper narrative where food choices are a form of identity expression, a way to align one’s daily habits with their ethical and moral compass.

It also poses an opportunity for those in the plant-based food industry to craft messages that resonate with these values, potentially capitalizing on the growing trend of ethical eating.

The Role of Partisan Messaging

The study’s exploration into the impact of partisan endorsements provided an unexpected twist: endorsements from party leaders could diminish the appeal of certain foods.

For example, when a plant-based food was endorsed by a political figure from the same party as the participant, it reduced the participant’s liking for meat.

This phenomenon reveals the power of political identity in influencing perceptions in unexpected domains, such as taste.

It underscores the need for a nuanced approach to food-related messaging, one that considers the complex interplay between political beliefs and consumer behavior.

Broader Implications: From Marketing to Public Policy

The research extends beyond the confines of taste and preference, touching upon broader societal trends and public policy.

As the divide between political parties grows, understanding these undercurrents could be crucial for public health initiatives aimed at promoting healthier and more sustainable diets.

Food policy experts could leverage these insights to develop bipartisan support for food sustainability programs, recognizing that messages must be tailored to resonate across the political spectrum.

The study also suggests a potential for increased polarization in dietary habits, mirroring the political landscape.

This could have profound implications for social cohesion, as food has traditionally been a unifying cultural element.

Conclusion: A Call for a United Table

As we navigate a polarized political climate, the study serves as a reminder of the shared human experience that transcends politics—the joy of eating.

It calls for a recognition of the diversity of tastes and an appreciation that, whether meat or plant-based, food can be a bridge rather than a divider.

In essence, the study does not just offer food for thought; it provides a menu of insights into the American psyche, where even our plates are canvases for our political expressions.

Study Information:

  • Title: Tastiness of meat and plant protein foods are associated with political partisanship and may be influenced by partisan messaging
  • Journal: Food Quality and Preference
  • Authors: Jonathan Kershaw, Alissa Nolden, Adam R Brown, Tara Hites, Laura Jefferies
  • DOI: 10.1016/j.foodqual.2023.105039