VISIONS OF SUGARPLUMS … Republican strategist Matthew Dowd doesn’t have much in common with Santa Claus. But if he saw your holiday wish-list, chances are he wouldn’t have to check it twice to guess how you voted last November. In 2004, Dowd, a chief strategist for the Bush campaign, helped organize an effort in 16 states of matching voter information with consumer data ? 182 unique data points per voter ? to reveal likely Bush supporters. As Dowd recently told Texas Monthly’s S.C. Gwynne:

“Traditional political science says that you can predict who a person is going to vote for based on his income or whether he is pro-choice or pro-life, for taxes or against,” Dowd said. “Well, that does not work. Lifestyle is what determines political choice. I would rather know where they shop, what they buy, what kind of car they drive, what sports they watch, where the kids go to school. Income is no predictor …”

According to Dowd, if you bought a camo vest at Cabela’s, you probably vote red. If you bought organic rice cakes at Whole Foods, you probably vote blue. Some results are less obvious: Dr. Pepper guzzlers trend red; Fanta drinkers trend blue. Republicans drive domestic-made SUVs and minivans; Democrats drive foreign-made ones. You can nitpick the categories (I don’t like Dr. Pepper or Fanta), but his track record reveals Dowd must have been on to something. Still, what to make of the following tidbit?

The TV show “Will & Grace,” for example, which centers on the lives of a gay man and a straight woman, leans heavily Republican. It’s the Republican women who are watching it.

As a side note, though I’m sure many Cabela’s shoppers vote red, anyone who assumes that all conservation-minded hunters and anglers are hunky-dory with the Grand Old Party might turn out to be ? as they say in Texas ? a bum steer. More on that next week.

UPDATE: By way of clarification, Dowd’s data-mining method doesn’t hold that voting habits can be deduced from a single shopping excursion. Rather, his formula weights many factors (yes, you can drink Dr. Pepper while munching rice cakes) to determine likely party affiliation ? according to Dowd, with 85-90% accuracy.

Christina Larson

Christina Larson is a Washington Monthly contributing editor and an award-winning science and environment journalist who has reported from five continents.