Election Wines

A Michigan winery is putting out special election-year bottles with tongue-in-cheek political affiliations, one white and one red for the Democrats, and one white and one red for the Republicans.

Of course, I'll jump at any opportunity to conduct a blind taste test in which I get to make my friends imbibe secret substances, so I got samples of the wines and invited equal numbers of Republicans and Democrats, and a fair number of independents, to come and see which wine they liked better. Do people's political leanings actually reflect their taste in wines?

All was on track except that, in a situation that turns the stereotypes on their heads, all the registered Republicans ended up flaking, while all the Democrats who'd promised to come showed up. Or maybe it does play to some sort of gross stereotype of "uptight" Republicans all having jobs and responsibilities to attend to, while "hippie" Dems are always eager for their next free fix of any sort of psychoactive substance they can get their hands on.

Hmm ....

Well, in any case, with a surfeit of Democrats and independents, I decided to try to break down people's political leanings by social and fiscal-policy attitudes instead of just by party affiliation. I handed out questionnaires in which I asked people to check off their party registration, if any; rate themselves as social liberals, moderates or conservatives; asked them to do the same regarding their fiscal stances; then asked them whether they were "definitely for" or "maybe for" John McCain or Barack Obama, or truly undecided. Finally, I had them rate each wine on its overall characteristics from 1 to 10.

There were two wines, Jack Blue, a white table wine for Democrats, and Red Trunk, a red table wine for Republicans. I served the white wine moderately chilled and the red slightly chilled, pouring them into generic plastic glasses out of sight of the participants.

I won't go into the specific numbers, because it wasn't a large enough sampling, because this isn't even pretending to be scientific, and because this was all just for fun. Here's what I found:

- Social liberals somewhat preferred the red wine (the Republican wine) to the white wine.

- Both social conservatives and social moderates clearly preferred the white wine (the Democratic wine).

- Fiscal conservatives preferred the white (Democratic) wine, while fiscal progressives and moderates were scattered all across the board.

- The more concrete a person's intent to vote for Barack Obama, the more likely that person would choose the red (Republican) wine over the white.

- One wuss who scrawled in "WILL NOT VOTE" couldn't make up her mind about the wines, either, and gave them equal rankings.

So what's the conclusion?

The winery should think about switching the labels, because the Democrats and Democratic-leaning had a strong preference for the ostensibly Republican wine, Red Trunk, while those whose fiscal and social attitudes were more closely aligned with the GOP's traditional stances were more likely to line up for the nominally Democratic wine, Jack Blue.

Michael Y. Park is a writer living in Brooklyn, New York. He studied medieval history as an undergraduate at the University of Chicago, and journalism as a graduate student at New York University. His stories have appeared in publications including The New York Times,the New York Post, and the Toronto Globe and Mail. He has feasted at a picnic with the king and queen of Malaysia, and dined on roadside kebabs while disguised as a Hazara tribesman in Afghanistan. He runs a monthly grilling competition in New York City and actually owns a kitchen torch.


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