by Marion Nestle
Dec 13 2023

The red/blue divide in American food choices?

A group with which I was unfamiliar, PropellerFish, sent me a report of a survey it conducted: Partisan Wellbeing in America.

Earlier this year, we sponsored a study to take a more robust look at how partisanship may be shaping people’s decisions around health, nutrition and wellbeing.
We conducted a quantitative survey with 1,400 Americans across the country and further engaged 450 of those respondents in qualitative writing assignments.
We then ran in-home ethnographies with eight participants who epitomized the perspectives we encountered to put that learning into context.

They were particularly interested in the views of people in conservative small towns.  For example:

Overall, foods were perceived as liberal when they:

  • Symbolized privilege
  • Signaled entitlement
  • Were associated with liberal causes (e.g., climate change)
  • Were associated with a liberal place (e.g., California)
  • Is viewed as technologically advanceed

America;s divisions, they conclude, are rooted in distinct world views.

Small town conservatives are concerned that eating healthfully will alienate their peers.

How to fix this?

  • Make healthier choices more accessible.
  • Associate healthier choices with hard work.
  • Connect healthier choices to rural social issues.

I like qualitative research.  It gets at voices and let’s them be heard.

What PropellerFish found here is not particularly surprising, but it’s the first time I’ve seen such views presented so clearly.

Worth a look?  I think yes.