If you looked inside a stranger’s fridge, do you think you could guess their political orientation from its contents? Last month, John Keefe and his colleagues at The New York Times asked a representative sample of US residents to send in a photo of the contents of their fridge, and to state whether they planned to vote for Donald Trump or Joe Biden.
Readers were asked to guess which were Trump fridges and which were Biden fridges. Of more than 22 million guesses, readers were correct 52 per cent of the time. In other words, they were only marginally more accurate than if they’d based their guess on the flip of a coin.
Perhaps it’s not surprising that fridges don’t say much about our politics. But are there other ways to discover political orientation?
Still on a frivolous note, Omri Gillath at the University of Kansas asked 208 adults to photograph their shoes, supply their age, gender, income and political ideology, and fill out a personality inventory. They asked 63 undergraduates to look at the photographs and guess the political ideology of the owner as well as their demographic characteristics and personality.
They guessed political ideology with significant accuracy. It turns out people with more liberal views usually wore less attractive, round-toed, cheap, poorly repaired shoes; while the more conservative wore shoes rated as attractive, pointy-toed, expensive and properly repaired. Conservative-leaning individuals scored higher on conscientiousness, one of the "Big Five" personality traits. Highly conscientious people are more organised and responsible, and more likely to attend to detail (like keeping shoes repaired).
The highly conscientious also expect to assume responsibility for their own behaviours, which Eugene Chan at Monash University suggested could be why he found those with more conservative views enjoy better health. The takeaway? If you don’t want others to know your political views, pay attention to the shoes you wear. But don’t worry about what’s in your fridge.