Does Your Car Predict Your Vote? In a Word, Yes

Jamie Lincoln Kitman

Jamie Lincoln Kitman | Feb 23, 2016

“Politics,” observed the late composer and social critic, Frank Zappa, “is the entertainment division of the military industrial complex.”

With this statement in mind and in the hope that we might combine this deliciously entertaining political season with another of our favorite entertainments – you guessed it, cars – the high and mighties around here arranged with pollster Dan Fortunato to conduct an online survey of Car Talk listeners. The polling would attempt to correlate respondents’ tastes in presidential candidates with their automotive preferences. As the man who once recorded ditties like “Wind Up Working in a Gas Station” might have predicted, the results are muy entertaining.

(Best Ride)

Fortunato’s report reminds us, however, that one must begin with the important qualification that since it’s a Car Talk on-line only poll, while it may tell us revealing stuff about the Car Talk Nation, it doesn’t really represent America as a whole. For that, Fortunato had to “normalize” the results, adjusting to bring the results more in sync with the country’s broader demographics, rather than those of just one particular radio show. As a most telling for instance of the poll’s raw skew, our respondents are feeling the Bern quite a bit more than they are out there in the real world. Almost half the votes tallied were for Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. He not only crushed all other comers, but also easily outpaced Hillary Clinton (with 24.25% of overall votes) by almost 100 percent.

As far as I’m concerned, this proves my longstanding suspicion that no group of Americans responds more quickly or forcefully to on-line polls asking how their candidate is doing than the code-happy foot soldiers in the Sandersista army. They, I believe, are how Bernie can be seen to win every on-line poll of who won the last debate. No survey too small to contest, no poll left behind. But I digress.

For Republicans who’ve been wanting to defund National Public Radio for the better part of the last fifty years, it will of course come as no surprise that the eggheads of the left dominate the NPR voting pool, though in fairness it must be said rarely did Tom and Ray overtly express political views, subversive or otherwise, unless you count driving an old Dart as an act of political resistance, which I do, but that’s another story. (Free the Slant Six!) Like the Tappet Bros., people of pretty much every political persuasion like cars, even though some commentators have suggested that Bernie doesn’t (see: It Looks Like Bernie Sanders Doesn’t Know S#%& About Cars).

"Free the Slant Six!" Finally, a political movement Car Talk can get behind. 

Then again, Fortunato’s tabulation reminds us that even here it’s not all Bernie all the time. In a pleasant surprise for perennial presidential candidate Rick Santorum, we have at last a poll where he’s not dead last, his 0.1% of the Car Talk Nation vote comfortably exceeding support for Roque de la Fuente (who?) at 0.08 and Jim Gilmore (who?) at 0.02%. Still, with numbers like that, Santorum might want to think about garaging his campaign for another four years, or alternately stepping things up right away. If he’s planning to stand on the metaphorical gas, the time has come.

Meanwhile, despite the striking left-leaning bias of the NPR voting pool, Donald Trump is still the runaway GOP favorite among respondents with 6.64% of the vote. Marco Rubio trails The Donald at 4.45%, with Ted Cruz a baby step behind with 4.41%. Here our sample mirrors the national polls, with all the other candidates, including Jeb!, who has since left the race, far behind in the GOP front-runners’ rear view mirrors.

Poor Jeb! If we needed any further proof that he was out of step with today’s new mainstream electorate, his supporters were statistically most likely in our survey to drive the ever less popular Ford Taurus, or one of two unlikely visitors from the Automotive Orphanage’s Hall of Obscure Fame, the Studebaker Avanti and the Oldsmobile Intrigue. Emphasizing like these the improbable results of small sample sizes, Ben Carson supporters staked out polar opposite positions in vehicular choice, being the persons most likely to drive the disparate Think City electric car and the gas-snarfling Aston Martin Virage.

"If we needed any further proof that he was out of step with today’s new mainstream electorate, his supporters were statistically most likely in our survey to drive the ever less popular Ford Taurus."

If you hired a comedian to prognosticate chances are they couldn’t have done better than guessing Bernie boosters are most likely to drive Honda Fits, Subaru Foresters and Volvo 240s, with or without the bad lesbian jokes. Hillary supporters, by contrast, are all-crossovers, all the time, with top model choices among her flock being the Toyota RAV4, Lexus RX350 and Acura RDX. It all makes sense to this doctrinaire automotive lefty – these middle of the road, latter-day SUVs Clinton backers drive are thirstier, more polluting, more in tune with the petro-military industrial complex than the more abstemious Sanders-fan choices.

Also in the no surprises here, folks, department: Republicans drive trucks more than those backing the chatty grandfather from the People’s Republic of Vermont.

The 2016 Ford F-150. Note the absence of Bernie stickers. (Ford)

But as any Vermonter can tell you, the state’s value structure is not just for hippies. Remember that thriftiness is a thread that can unite crystal toting New Agers and abstemious puritans all day long in this great land of ours.

So it is that Sanders, Cruz and Clinton supporters all drive the least expensive cars of those reported, though that may change if Cruz gets elected and follows through on his campaign promise to abolish the IRS. Between lower tax rates and the lack of anyone left to collect money for the government, we all ought to have more money free to upgrade our next car purchase to something more expensive, which we can then drive to the ceremonies celebrating the collapse of the federal government.

Auto recycling yard or parking lot at a Clinton, Cruz or Sanders rally?

Proving possibly that our listeners are more practical, penny-pinchers than wide-eyed, big idea dreamers, Fortunato found electric car owners in the survey were more likely to back Hillary Clinton, and statistically less likely to champion Jill Stein, the Green Party’s presidential candidate. That’s a surprise, but the fact that EV folk are not likely to support Rafael Edward “Mr. Fossil Fuel” Cruz isn’t.

Finally, of particular interest to me, old car owners are more likely to support Sanders and Trump. As no old car owner needs reminding, it helps ease the process of owning an elderly automobile if you’re eccentric, fuzzy on the details and a little bit nutty.

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