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The Politics of Luxury Purchases

Republicans buy luxury goods to maintain their status while Democrats’ purchases signal their uniqueness.

Rich Republicans and Democrats both love buying luxury goods, but the reasons behind their purchases differ, according to a study published in the Journal of Marketing. The study found that Republicans spend money on expensive products—cars, eyeglasses, fancy headphones and clothes—when they think the product will help them maintain their status in society. Democrats prefer products that signal their uniqueness.

“It’s not that Republicans are more obsessed with luxury goods or they like to flaunt their wealth, it’s that in some ways they’re more afraid; they fear they may fall further behind, so they want to hold their ground,” by acquiring the tokens of status, said lead researcher Jeehye Christine Kim, an assistant professor of marketing at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.

For example, Republicans with high social status were 9.8 percent more likely than similar Democrats to buy a luxury car, and were willing to spend more on it—$33,216 compared to $29,022 for Democrats.

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