Why do Liberals Drink Lattes?

The term latte liberals has been used as a derogatory term for a while now in the US. The phrase came about to describe “liberals who sit around and drink overpriced diluted Starbucks coffee while lamenting the plight of the poor.” This is quite similar to the term “wine’n’cheese”, which caught on in India for those who oppose Aadhaar. Though we do not have any conclusive proof of whether Aadhaarophobics truly consume large quantities of wine and cheese, a study has been conducted in the US to establish the link between liberals and lattes in the US.

Using a large-scale survey, researchers Diana C. Mutz and Jahnavi S. Rao did find a positive relationship between being a liberal and preference for lattes. However, undoubtedly, this relationship is not causal. Being a liberal doesn’t make you drink more lattes or drinking lattes won’t make you a liberal. The interesting aspect is to then find out the reasons behind the positive relationship. The authors provide four explanations, which they have empirically tested:

  1. Their first assertion is that this relationship occurs because latte consumption is a function of the sheer availability of coffee shops. Although chain coffee shops are everywhere in America, they are more prevalent in urban areas, where liberals are more likely to live.
  2. A second possibility is that the cost of purchasing one’s coffee beverage at a coffee shop means that both latte consumption and liberal ideology are functions of income. According to a 2015 survey, consumers will spend $3.28, on average, for a cup of regular coffee at a coffee shop; for barista prepared beverages, the cost can run much higher. As a result, those with higher incomes find it easier to afford lattes than those with limited incomes and it is also empirically proven that liberals tend to have higher incomes.
  3. Their third assertion is linked to gender. It is almost well established in American politics that women tend to be more liberal than men. Women are also more likely to drink lattes.
  4. The final assertion is that conservatives tend to have a disdain for globalization and will thus, avoid foreign sounding products (even though lattes are made in the US).

The paper gives other interesting examples of when the fourth point has stood out in the US.

On the other hand, the name of a product may be as important as, if not more important than, its actual country of production. For example, in 2003, when the US conflict with France over whether to invade Iraq escalated, there were calls from people including Bill O’Reilly to boycott French products. Even the US House of Representatives cafeteria temporarily renamed its French fries and French toast, “freedom fries” and “freedom toast”

Since latte is an Italian word and almost definitely does not have linguistic roots in American English, conservatives tend to believe that it is a foreign product and will avoid it.