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COVID-19 Impacts Democrats and Republicans Differently, Strategic Vision Research Reveals

SAN DIEGO – Strategic Vision releases its annual results focusing on the similarities and differences of new vehicle buyers based on their self-identified political affiliation. These include Republicans, Democrats, and Independents, as well as those who identify as leaning Liberal or Conservative with no stated party preference. Given COVID-19’s impact on the economy, transportation, and how consumers shop for and purchase vehicles, this year’s study also explores how responses to the global pandemic and the car buying experience differ based on personal political beliefs. While COVID-19 has affected every American, there are differences in its impact on consumers, particularly when considering how they purchase a new vehicle.


When asked how COVID-19 changed the car buying experience, Democrats were more likely to mention the health and safety precautions taken by the dealership, whereas Republicans mentioned the better deals that were offered due to COVID-19 such as 0% APR financing. “Employment and household income are some of the initial lenses that filter out which vehicles can be considered by a consumer along the decision path,” reports Alexander Edwards, President of Strategic Vision. “Many respondents discussed how both the actual and believed impact of COVID-19 on their financial security changed the way people considered and purchased a vehicle. One woman in the study explained that she wanted something more affordable in case she lost her job because of COVID.” Almost half of new vehicle buyers reported that they are ‘most often working from a home environment now,’ yet the rates at which people are reporting this occupational change coincide significantly with political affiliation. Republicans and conservatives are 7% more likely to report ‘There have been no major changes to [their] job,’ while Democrats are 6% more likely to report ‘most often working from a home environment now.’ Self-reported Liberals are twice as likely as self-reported Republicans/conservatives to have ‘lost [their] job and/or filed for unemployment’ at 8%.


Both Democrats and Liberals experienced the greatest impact in the new-vehicle buying experience during COVID-19. The good news for dealerships is that Liberals were 15% more likely to say the experience was “delightful” compared to car buying experiences in previous years. This is connected to their purchasing process because, as a result of COVID-19, Liberals did significantly more work remotely rather than in-person such as arranging financing (20%), vehicle payment (21%), and negotiating a vehicle price (13%) all remotely. This was true for Democrats as well to a lesser extent, though Democrats also had an increased desire for an explanation of vehicle features and controls and to have the vehicle delivered to them. In contrast, Republicans and Independents were less likely to use remote car buying options. One respondent stated that “the change was amazing. I strongly dislike waiting hours and hours for paperwork. This time was smooth and easy, from home, and my car was delivered to me!! Loved it.” Others reported the additional security and freedom they experienced by not having an employee during their test drive.


In addition to the impact of COVID-19 on vehicle purchase based on political party, the study also identifies the Top 5 most popular models by political party choice. Those in bold and italics were also in the Top 5 for Democrats, Republicans, and Independents in 2016.



In addition, respondents noted the priorities and images they desired in their vehicle choices:



Being seen as openly partisan in an era of deeply polarized political views prompts negative responses from Democrats and Republicans alike, encouraging more voters to self-identify in surveys as "Independent" or "No Party Preference." These combined groups now outnumber either major political party. However, through the character traits described above, respondents’ top vehicle descriptions signal a desire to make a political statement that matches their party or political leanings. With closet partisanship at an all-time high, “using one’s personal vehicle for political virtue signaling has implications on vehicle choice and sales” says Strategic Vision’s Political Data Director Laura Edwards. “While car buyers may no longer be comfortable using yard signs to display partisanship, the new cars in their driveway can be used as political identifiers.” Essentially, vehicle brands and models can be political ambassadors and participate in the grassroots advocacy of the various political parties. “From the way new vehicle buyers describe their vehicle’s personality, they are doing so to both complement and extend their own image of self and priorities. This is why Republican owners more often look for Conservative and Rugged vehicles while Liberals are more likely to look for Environmentally Friendly and Progressive ones,” Edwards concluded.


Responses from more than 65,000 new vehicle buyers from SV’s New Vehicle Experience Study (NVES) who purchased a vehicle in the 2019 – 2020 timeframe were used to determine the results of this study. Since the incorporation of the parent company in 1977, Strategic Vision has studied consumer and constituent decision-making across the globe for the widest variety of products and services from new vehicles, food and beverage, travel, pharmaceutical, and even paper plates. Strategic Vision’s unique expertise is identifying consumers’ motivational hierarchies, including the values that shape perceptions and capture the customers’ emotional responses and drive behavior. For further information or interview requests, please contact Alexander Edwards or Laura Edwards at 858.576.7141, or visit www.strategicvision.com.



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