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Ideology correlates to U.S. vs. import

By William Ehart (Contact)

Originally published 04:45 a.m., June 30, 2009, updated 11:29 a.m., June 30, 2009

In the ’80s, it was the politics of dancing. In the ’90s, the politics of caring. Today, in bailout nation, we have the politics of driving.

The Volvo-driving liberal and the redneck in a Chevy pickup are long-held stereotypes. But a map of car ownership – produced by R.L. Polk & Co. – overlaid on the electoral map reveals the surprising extent to which how we vote corresponds with what we drive.

Blue-staters on each coast, from Los Angeles to Seattle and from Boston to the District, are the most likely to drive foreign cars. Domestic brands have their highest levels of market share in the mostly conservative interior of the country.

In some blue states – where a Democrat has won at least three of the last four presidential contests – foreign cars have as much as 60 percent of the market, as measured by vehicle registrations. It is mostly in red states – Republican strongholds – where domestic cars have 74 percent of the market or more.

This pattern holds in 36 states and the District.

The three politically purple states – those that have evenly split the last four elections – strongly prefer domestic cars.

Be careful with that party label, though – and check out the union label.

Its true that liberal Democrats are the least likely group to consider an American car, according to a recent Gallup poll. And conservative Republicans clearly prefer domestic cars. But one species turns the car-buying political spectrum inside out: conservative Democrats. The commitment of this group to buy American cars is so strong that conservative Republicans look downright bicoastal by comparison.

Fourteen states depart from the pattern, and five of them are in the Midwest. Michigan likes its politics just like its football: deep blue. But the seat of the domestic auto industry sees red about foreign cars. Import-driving visitors should consider renting a Big Three model at the state line.

Wisconsin also votes staunchly blue and drives dark red. A lot of Green Bay Packers fans work in the auto industry.

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