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Does Your Ride Predict Your Vote? The Car Talk/BestRide Poll Says “YES!”

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Are Sanders supporters Prius owners? Do Trump fans drive pickups? Are Clinton backers driving beige Camrys? To get a real sense of what America drives and what candidate those car owners support, Car Talk and BestRide polled 10,000 people and asked two simple questions: What car do you drive and what candidate do you hope is elected president?

The survey was posted on CarTalk.com. Just to give you an idea of what a sample size of 10,000 people means, in the latest Quinnipiac College National Poll, the nerds there surveyed about 1,200 people, around 600 each of Republican and Democrat-leaning voters.

10,000 responses is huge, and it starts to tell you some things about car brands, car models and how your car indicates what candidate you might be leaning towards.

Here’s what we found out:

  • Toyota Prius owners are 40% more likely to support Hillary Clinton than the general population, which shouldn’t be surprising.
  • The surprise is that Prius owners are 126% more likely to support Ted Cruz than the general population.
  • Dodge owners favor Donald Trump 50% more than the general population.

  • Whose supporters are the cheapest? Interestingly, the top two winners — or the bottom two, depending on how you look at it — are Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders. Their cars have an average MSRP of $29,545 and $25,770, respectively. Cheapness, it seems, knows no political bounds.

  • The candidate whose supporters drive cars with the highest MSRP? The lone Green Party candidate, Jill Stein, whose supporters have cars with an MSRP averaging almost $40,000.
  • Clinton fans love brands that are steady performers and not particularly flashy: Toyota, Lexus and Acura. And you’re least likely to find her supporters driving Chevrolets, Fords, and Pontiacs.

Camry meme

  • As for Jeb Bush fans, their #1 most disproportionate pick is a Ford Taurus. (Why are we not surprised?)
  • We also looked at the average EPA-estimated highway fuel mileage. Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton supporters are tied at 28.5 miles per gallon. In general, Republican candidates had the lowest fuel mileage average, with Donald Trump supporters coming in with just 23.6 miles per gallon, Carly Fiorina at 24.4, and Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz tied at 24.7.
  • Among electric car owners, 86% of responses were for a Democrat and 14% were for a Republican.

  • Electric car owners are more statistically likely to support a Democrat relative to the general population. They are more likely to support Hillary Clinton than the general population is, and less likely to support Ted Cruz.
  • Car brands naturally cluster based on the probabilities that their owners vote for Republicans or Democrats. Two car brands are connected if they are closest to each other in probability space. Clusters of similar cars naturally form. There is a definite truck cluster, luxury cluster, and midsize SUV cluster.

Car Brand sorted by political affiliation

 

  • The most popular car model among Chris Christie supporters is the Mercury Monterey.

Dig into this data and a picture forms around brands and political affiliations. In this word cloud, the brand names are colored by political affiliation (Red is Republican, Blue is Democrat). The size of the word represents the magnitude of how big the sway is. For example, Audi owners might be slightly more likely to choose Democratic candidates, but Ram drivers are much more likely to choose a Republican.

Word Cloud

 

How We Normalized the Data

Because there are a lot of F-150s and Accords around, those cars get represented more frequently in a poll. You’d also guess that Bernie Sanders supporters are more likely to drive an electric car.

We knew we had to somehow normalize the database of responses. We also wanted to know how electric car owners differed on Hillary vs. Bernie, and how Lexus owners split on Carly vs. The Donald.

But we barely passed Basic Math. To get a handle on the data, we needed some heavy duty computing horsepower. We found Dan Fortunato.

Dan’s a graduate student in applied mathematics at Harvard University. He did his undergraduate study in mathematics and computer science at Tufts University, where he graduated summa cum laude with highest thesis honors in 2013. Outside of school, Dan was a software engineer at Wolfram Research for two years, and has held positions at Apple and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

“The poll was dominated by votes for Bernie and Hillary, due to the NPR online-only nature of the poll,” he told us.

Parenthetically, it was a problem we encountered when we tested the poll on my last appearance on WBZ-AM1030’s Jay Talking. We asked listeners to call in and tell us what kind of car they drove, and we’d try to predict their vote. In that informal poll, eight of the 17 callers we talked to were Donald Trump supporters, something you’d expect from a late-night audience listening to AM radio. The shocker was that out of three write-in supporters for Michael Bloomberg, every single one drove a Volvo.)

“This skewing affects how many data points we have to go off of for each candidate, but doesn’t affect trends we see necessarily, since we normalize the data to account for this,” he says.

WARNING: DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF MATH FOLLOWS

Sleep

“To find many of the trends discussed, I compute probabilities for a subset of the data and compare it to those same probabilities over the whole dataset. This involves computing a z-score and p-value that quantifies the statistical significance of differences we see between the two distributions,” says Dan.

“When I say something is statistically significant below, I am usually using the metric of p < 0.05. I’ve also dropped the candidates or cars that only got a couple votes, so that their small sample sizes don’t skew things, he says.

You can download all the findings in a.pdf here: Does Your Ride Predict Your Vote?

Special thanks to Dan Fortunato for analyzing the data for us.

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Craig Fitzgerald

Craig Fitzgerald

Writer, editor, lousy guitar player, dad. Content Marketing and Publication Manager at BestRide.com.