A new research has shed light on how political allegiance plays a critical role in the decision to buy luxury goods.
According to the study conservative shoppers are much more likely than their liberal counterparts to purchase luxury items if and when they believe the purchase will help them maintain their social status. This is down to a conservative inclination to preserve socio-economic order and an aversion to change in the social hierarchy, said one of the authors of the study.
This can influence the demand for luxury products positioned as having the ability to maintain one’s status as well as make conservatives more sensitive to luxury at times of change in the broader environment (e.g., social changes).
The study is the very first to establish a causal link between luxury purchasing patterns and political proclivity. It builds on a fundamental understanding that people buy luxury goods to signal their status. Novel to the research, the authors show that people seek status signalling for one of two critical reasons: to maintain their social position vis à vis others, or to advance their social standing.
Researchers hypothesized and found that when the motive to maintain one’s current status is salient, conservatives desire luxury goods more than liberals. To put this hypothesis to the test, Dubois and his co-authors ran a number of in-depth studies based on different samples and analyses using actual sales data, as well as online experiments to test how and when such an effect of status maintenance on the desire for luxury products and services occurs.
Looking for a baseline connection between greater desire for luxury goods and political conservatism, the researchers began by examining survey data from 21,999 car purchases across 51 US states between October 2011 and September 2012.
Respondents provided information about their political beliefs, their desire to buy luxury goods and their social status. Dubois and his team found a direct link between the political orientation of high status individuals and how likely they were to buy a luxury car.
The status-maintenance hypothesis was then tested in several survey studies across different sample groups, which further examined when and why the desire to maintain one’s status can be activated.