Waitrose or Tesco? What your supermarket says about your politics

tThe last bastion of unwavering Conservative support? The aisles of Waitrose, apparently. The store, which sells currants and halloumi in its “essential” range, is now the only major supermarket with a majority of conservative customers, according to a new survey. GlobalData researchers found that Tesco, Sainsbury's, Lidl, Aldi and Morrisons have all leaned towards the Labor Party since a previous survey in 2019, with luxury online retailer Ocado now claiming the largest share of Labor voters (closely followed by Lidl and Iceland, whose boss Richard Walker recently publicly switched allegiance from the Conservative Party to the Labor Party).

Keir Starmer's party, it seems, has achieved real success in supermarkets in the years since the last general election, when it could only count on the majority support of Asda, Iceland and the Co-op shoppers. “If supermarkets were seats, Labor would be on course for a landslide victory,” said GlobalData's chief retail analyst Zoe Mills. Meanwhile, Reform has apparently overtaken the Lib Dems to become the third most popular choice at all supermarkets except Sainsbury's, with Aldi and Marks & Spencer having the highest proportion of Green voters. Rishi Sunak, of course, is so astronomically rich that he probably wouldn't think twice about making the big purchase at Fortnum & Mason or the Harrods dining room, although he might have trouble using contactless payment at the checkout.

News about the conservatism of Waitrose shoppers is unlikely to leave anyone choking on their Duchy Organics biscuit (case in point: a place stocking King's Side products doesn't exactly scream radical politics). If supermarkets are used as broadly political shorthand – making assumptions about someone's beliefs based on how much they are willing and able to spend on their weekly shop – then Waitrose has always been codified by the Conservatives.

Because? It's a bit like “Which came first, the chicken or the free-range Burford Brown?” situation. Is Waitrose fundamentally and inherently stylish, with its immaculate aisles filled with aspirational artisanal products and its range of celeriac remoulade snacks? Or did its stores always tend to concentrate in traditional conservative hubs (i.e. before the brand embarked on expanding across the country) and therefore inevitably attract a staunchly conservative, upper-middle-class crowd? Waitrose prices are perhaps the biggest factor at play. It reliably tops the rankings as the UK's most expensive supermarket, so it attracts a wealthier class of shoppers. In the last general election, landlords were more likely to vote Conservative; In general, higher incomes tend to correlate with right-wing views.

Social media accounts like 'Overheard at Waitrose' have further entrenched the idea that people who shop there are rich and out of touch.
Social media accounts like 'Overheard at Waitrose' have further entrenched the idea that people who shop there are rich and out of touch. (AFP via Getty)

Picture the stereotypical Waitrose shopper and you might imagine, for example, a middle-aged couple in a Range Rover, possibly accompanied by their children (named after characters from Shakespeare and/or figures from Greek myths and legends). They are looking for something that cooks well on the Aga. In his second house.

This idea of ​​the Waitrose shopper as a posho has only been further entrenched by the popularity of social media accounts such as “Overheard at Waitrose”, where shoppers can anonymously submit the very specific, big-money issues they have heard about hidden (think children begging their parents for venison sausages or wine snobs soliloquising about how out of fashion Prosecco is). Some of them seem so parodic that one wonders if they really took place or if the author is simply playing with the online audience: did a child really ask, “Dad, Lego has a silent 'T', like merlot?” “Still, there is some evidence to suggest that – despite the supermarket's reputation – even Waitrose warriors are starting to tire of the Conservatives. In 2019, the Conservatives had a 36.4 per cent lead over Labor among Waitrose shoppers. It has now dropped to 1.2 per cent.

Of course, political beliefs are much more complex and nuanced than any loyalty to where you buy your food. And yet the parties are still obsessed with using supermarkets as a snappy (but let's face it, a little embarrassing) way to summarize a certain demographic of voters. The Lib Dems are reportedly aiming to go after both the “Waitrose woman” – a traditional Home Counties Conservative voter who may be disillusioned by the current government – ​​and “M&S boosters”. The latter category apparently describes young couples who moved from London to their home counties in the wake of the pandemic to raise their families. According to a leaked document, they also have strong opinions about “Gary Lineker and his causes” (presumably the liberal views he tends to share on social media, rather than his long-standing commitment to Walkers crisps, available at Marks and Sparks , your local store). of course).

It's enough to leave you wondering what other shopping stereotypes might be appearing in campaign materials at party headquarters, and where you might fit in (I'm a lukewarm Lidl user, so the data says it's probably, er, a lidl on the left). As for which of these trolley-pushing tribes will be the ones to influence the election? We'll have to wait until July 4 to find out.

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