How Diet Intersects With Political Alignment
Whether you are vegan or a carnivore or anywhere in between, many have noticed that, similar to many other divisive issues, one’s stance on diet seems to follow a predictive pattern of one’s politics. So often we think of the stereotype of a strict omnivore who relishes in a diet of red meat as politically conservative, and the strict vegan as a granola-loving liberal. Not only is being an omnivore stereotyped as analogous to conservatism, it also is seen as analogous to authoritarianism and what sociologists call “social dominance orientation.” However, these have typically been hunches not studied in great detail. In this study, researchers wanted to determine the accuracy of these hunches and see if, specifically, omnivorism is linked to particular socio-political behaviors and/or beliefs.
The participants in the study were first-year, majority-white, majority-female college students with mostly above-average family wealth, basically fitting the WEIRD definition of Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, and Democratic. They were asked about their diet and how they identified politically in terms of political parties and a range of other political issues. The study found that omnivores “identified more closely with the Republican party, identified less closely with the Democratic party, described themselves as more conservative, and reported greater approval of Donald Trump’s performance.” Along those lines, omnivores were more likely to vote for Trump and endorsed policies that generally lean conservative in the U.S., such as decreasing taxes and increasing spending on national defense. Likewise, ominivores also strayed away from supporting policies that are generally considered liberal, such as abortion rights or legalizing same-sex marriage.
The findings of this study add to a growing body of research regarding how diet intersects with our socio-political life. For omnivores that are confronted with the reasoning for vegetarianism or veganism, they may state that taste is a barrier, but this study discusses how research has shown that continuing to eat meat is also an implicit decision: it allows omnivores to continue supporting dominant ideologies and resist cultural change. For example, as the Faunalytics article “Why Is It So Hard To Think Straight About Animals? A Dive Into Speciesism“ alludes to, there is evidence that speciesism and conservative attitudes tend to be driven by dominance orientation.
While the WEIRD sample used in the referred study presents a continuing blind-spot in academia, there is reason to believe that these findings are replicated in other Western countries such as Australia. However, the study leaves much to be wondered. For instance, this study was looking at vegetarians or omnivores who choose those diets actively. However, much of the world is cannot afford to eat as much meat as they could like, or are vegetarian by doctrine, with certain religions having scripture that makes dietary prescriptions. Moreover, there is still much to be researched in regards to why individuals may be more prone to becoming vegetarian or remaining omnivorous — are there elements of upbringing that influence this choice? Could it be boiled down to genetics? This field is promising and the results will be exciting.