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Press Release From the Journal of Marketing: Conservatives and Liberals Feel Differently About the Products They Purchase - Here's How Companies Can Use This to Improve Sales

Marilyn Stone

Researchers from Catholic University of Portugal, Boston College, Korea University, University of Texas at San Antonio, and Rice University published a new paper in the Journal of Marketing that identifies customers’ political ideology as an important driver of their satisfaction.

The study, forthcoming in the Journal of Marketing, is titled “How Political Identity Shapes Customer Satisfaction” and is authored by Daniel Fernandes, Nailya Ordabayeva, Kyuhong Han, Jihye Jung, and Vikas Mittal.

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Customer satisfaction is of utmost importance to firms. It drives customer word-of-mouth, loyalty, and sales, which is why many firms spend millions or even billions of dollars innovating the customer experience. This new research identifies customers’ political ideology as an important driver of their satisfaction. Specifically, the researchers find that conservatives are more satisfied with their purchases than liberals. 
 
This phenomenon is documented through multiple studies conducted in the lab and in the field. Some studies analyzed consumers’ satisfaction with their actual past purchases and measured their political identity on a nine-point scale (1 = “extremely liberal” to 9 = “extremely conservative” in the US and 1 = “extremely left-wing” to 9 = “extremely right-wing” in Europe). Findings show that a one-point increase in consumers’ political conservatism was associated with a 5% average increase in their satisfaction with actual purchases. In other studies, the researchers created an identical product experience that conservatives and liberals consumed during the study. Specifically, conservatives and liberals consumed the same online instructional videos about how to complete various tasks at home (e.g., exercise from home). Results indicate that conservatives were more satisfied with this consumption experience than liberals. In other studies, the research team analyzed actual customer satisfaction data obtained in the field, such as online reviews and firms’ customer satisfaction surveys, spanning various product and service categories including restaurants, airport travel, health insurance, and B2B services. Regardless of the context or category, conservatives were found to be consistently more satisfied than liberals. Importantly, higher levels of customer satisfaction drive conservatives’ higher likelihood to re-purchase the products and services they consume and to recommend these products and services to others. This ultimately translates to higher firm sales. 
 
The research team states that “We find that conservatives are consistently more satisfied than liberals because conservatives believe more strongly in free-will and their personal responsibility for their actions and outcomes than liberals do. This leads conservatives to trust their purchase decisions more and to ultimately feel more satisfied with the products they choose to buy and consume.” Other studies find that restricting conservatives’ choice freedom lowers their satisfaction levels. However, strategies that boost liberals’ confidence in their purchase decisions boosts their satisfaction levels. 
 
These results have important implications for firms. First, by understanding the political identity of their customer base, companies can improve and better manage the satisfaction of their clients. “For instance, because conservatives believe in free will and individual responsibility, providing them with abundant choices further boosts their level of satisfaction,” says the research team. Indeed, one study found that conservatives’ (vs. liberals’) online restaurant reviews were even higher when there were abundant restaurant options nearby. They add that, “In contrast, liberals’ satisfaction can be increased through tactics that boost their confidence in their consumption choices.” For example, increasing perceptions of the positivity of the consumption experience, or category expertise, raises liberals’ customer satisfaction. This also means that companies should pay close attention to service and product failures that create negative experiences for liberal clients because liberals’ dissatisfaction in these cases may be particularly pronounced. 
 
More broadly, this research indicates that accounting for customers’ political identity in analyses and interpretations of customer satisfaction data such as online reviews can benefit firms because customers’ political identity could bias customer analytics. Indeed, accounting for the role of political identity in satisfaction data can help companies better understand the extent to which their satisfaction data reflect actual product performance and customer service rather than their customers’ inherent tendency to feel content. This can ultimately help companies craft more effective strategies to improve their products and services.

Full article and author contact information available at: https://doi.org/10.1177/00222429211057508

About the Journal of Marketing 

The Journal of Marketing develops and disseminates knowledge about real-world marketing questions useful to scholars, educators, managers, policy makers, consumers, and other societal stakeholders around the world. Published by the American Marketing Association since its founding in 1936, JM has played a significant role in shaping the content and boundaries of the marketing discipline. Christine Moorman (T. Austin Finch, Sr. Professor of Business Administration at the Fuqua School of Business, Duke University) serves as the current Editor in Chief.
https://www.ama.org/jm

About the American Marketing Association (AMA) 

As the largest chapter-based marketing association in the world, the AMA is trusted by marketing and sales professionals to help them discover what is coming next in the industry. The AMA has a community of local chapters in more than 70 cities and 350 college campuses throughout North America. The AMA is home to award-winning content, PCM® professional certification, premiere academic journals, and industry-leading training events and conferences.
https://www.ama.org

Marilyn Stone is Senior Managing Editor of American Marketing Association's esteemed academic journals.