Tim Hortons middle-class posturing

Coincident with news that Tim Hortons will be raising prices on some items, Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff began his day with a photo shoot at a Timmie’s in Halifax on Tuesday.

In just over a week of campaigning, the leaders have made numerous campaign stops at Tim Hortons outlets, with Conservative leader Stephen Harper actually getting behind the cash and serving customers at one. Oddly, however, neither actually came for the coffee: Ignatieff prefers steeped tea while Harper, reportedly, favours hot chocolate.

Nevertheless, worshipping at the Hortons altar is seen as an obligatory ritual for Canadian politicians.

Hortons reflects hard-working Canadian values, while Starbucks signifies out-of-touch elitists, or so goes the prevailing wisdom.

The Tories have repeatedly laid claim to the Hortons demographic. But, like so much other politician posturing, this notion is nonsense.

A Citizen analysis published after the 2008 election found that, despite the identification of Starbucks in popular culture with liberal values, there is a stronger correlation between the number of Bucky’s in a riding and the number of votes cast for Conservative candidates, compared to votes for Liberals (see full text below).

Still, not one of the big-three campaigns has made a Starbucks stop yet, and don’t expect one.

Tories a hit among latte-drinking elite, despite popular myth; This time around, Starbucks abound in Conservative ridings, Glen McGregor reports, and Liberal country is teeming with Timmies.
The Ottawa Citizen
Oct 20 2008
By Glen McGregor

With the Conservative party winning re-election last week, the government is once again in the hands of latte-drinking elites, a Citizen analysis comparing voting behaviour and the distribution of coffee franchises suggests.

Election returns dispel the conventional political wisdom advocated by some pundits, who use coffee-shop affiliation to cleave the electorate into two distinct tribes.

On one side, the theory goes, liberals steer their hybrids to arts galas, worry about the environment and suck $4.00 cappuccinos from Starbucks. On the other, the average Joes drive their kids to hockey in the minivan, fret about crime and taxes, and sip $1.39 double-doubles from Tim Hortons.

For politicians eager to court the vast middle class, affiliation with the latter is eminently preferred. During the past election campaign, Liberal leader Stéphane Dion and Prime Minister Stephen Harper both staked claims to Tim Hortons in their political rhetoric.

But despite the identification of Starbucks in popular culture with liberal values, there is a stronger correlation between the number of Starbucks in a riding and the number of votes cast for Conservative candidates in the last election, compared to votes for Liberal candidates.

While total votes for both main parties increased in ridings with more Starbucks shops, this relationship was 60 per cent stronger for the Tories, an analysis of store locations and election returns shows.

This can be explained largely by density of Starbucks shops in suburban ridings, where the Tories run strongest. The Tories also bumped their ‘bucky’s numbers by scoring a huge share of the votes in urban ridings in Alberta with many Starbucks.

Calgary Centre, for example, has the third-highest density of Starbucks among federal ridings, outnumbering Tim Hortons by about two to one. Incumbent Tory Lee Richardson won the seat again last week by taking more than three times as many votes as the Liberal.

And while Liberal Hedy Fry was re-elected in Vancouver Centre, the riding with the heaviest Starbucks concentration in the country, she collected only about 50 per cent more votes than the Tory challenger.

The relative strength of a relationship between two sets of numbers can be expressed as a number between 0 and 1, where 0 indicates that the two numbers are not correlated at all, while a score of 1 indicates perfect positive correlation.

For example, comparing the ownership of luxury vehicles with income would produce a number approaching 1, while there would likely be little or no correlation between income and, say, a person’s eye colour, yielding a number close to zero.

Comparing the number of Starbucks shops in a riding with the number of Liberal votes produces a correlation of 0.1, but the Tories’ “Starbucks factor” is 0.16.

There is also a stronger correlation between Liberal votes and the density of Tim Hortons shops in a riding than there is with Tory votes.

The more Tim Hortons outlets there are in a riding, on average, the higher the number of Liberal votes cast last week, the data show. The Liberals’ Tim Hortons factor clocks in at 0.42, while the Tories scored a 0.11.

This is largely due to the strongly urban support for the Liberal party. There are 2,800 Tim Hortons outlets across country, and you can find one in nearly every federal riding outside of Quebec.

Of the 10 ridings with highest density of Timmies, the Liberals won five, while the NPD took three and an independent MP and the Conservatives picked up one each. But of the top-10 Starbucks ridings, the Tories won four and the Liberals took three.

While Starbucks can help differentiate Liberal turf from Conservative, the election data showed a stronger correlation between the coffee chain and the party that shares its corporate colour.

Not surprisingly, the number of Green votes increased in ridings with many Starbucks stores, giving them a Starbucks factor of 0.42.

When it come to seats won, however, distinctions are less clear. Ridings won by Tories and Liberals averaged about 3.1 Starbucks outlets per 100,000 in population. Ridings won by Liberals averaged about 9.7 Tim Hortons franchises per 100,000, compared to 7.9 in ridings the Tories won.

The New Democratic vote also tended to increase with the density of both Starbucks and Tim Hortons shops.

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