Tea Leavers and Champagne for Remain: what your shopping basket says about your EU stance

Analysis of 780,000 shopping trips in the UK further reveals the class divide between Brexit and pro-Europe voters.

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A class divide has long been emerging in the debate about Britain’s EU membership. Rather than a right versus left issue, it is now being characterised as a battle between the generally pro-EU middle classes and the “left behind”, who are more likely to be tempted by Brexit. As YouGov’s Peter Kellner puts it: “Provincial England versus London and the Celts”.

An analysis of the nation’s shopping baskets further reveals this demographic split. A survey by Kantar Worldpanel of 780,000 shopping trips – research shown exclusively to the New Statesman – reveals the difference in consumer habits between Remain and Leave voters.

Those who express support for Remain, for example, buy 27 per cent more Champagne and Prosecco than Brexiters. The latter are 6 per cent more likely to buy alcohol overall – but they buy more beer and spirits than their political opponents.

The upmarket supermarket Waitrose is significantly more popular with Remain voters, who spend 73 per cent more in Waitrose than those wanting to leave the EU. Leavers are more likely to favour Iceland (a supermarket that focuses on frozen foods).

Remainers also buy more fresh fish and vegetables than Brexiters, who are 54 per cent more likely to buy frozen meat and 37 per cent more likely to buy frozen poultry than their opponents. In general, Leavers buy significantly more meat (14 per cent more beef, 25 per cent more pork, and 22 per cent more lamb) than Remainers.

Remain voters also buy 83 per cent more fresh pasta and 30 per cent more fresh pizzas than Leavers, whereas Leavers buy 17 per cent more pastries.

Other differences found in the survey (less easy to extrapolate from) include:

  • Leave voters are 9 per cent more likely to buy healthcare products.
  • Leave voters are 34 per cent more likely to buy pet care products.
  • Remain voters buy more chilled drinks.
  • Leavers buy 20 per cent more tea than Remainers.
  • Remainers buy 30 per cent more instant coffee than Leavers.
  • Remainers buy 33 per cent more frankfurters and continental sausages than Leavers.
  • Leavers buy 9 per cent more margarine and 6 per cent milk than Remainers.
  • Remainers buy 18 per cent more cream than Leavers.

Fraser McKevitt from Kantar Worldpanel commented that although the survey isn’t “suggesting that what you buy and where you buy it” determines how you will vote in the referendum, “the relationship between who you are, where you shop, and what you’re likely to buy, is clear.

“Affluence and age are proving to be the critical fault lines in the country influencing how people intend to vote, and these same parameters are also a good, but not infallible indication of where people will choose to shop, and the groceries they will spend their money on.”

During May 2016, Kantar polled 6,000 main shoppers (aged 16 and over) from its panel of 30,000 UK homes. This allowed it to analyse 780,000 in-store shopping trips across the past year (May 2015-May 2016).

This coincides with another supermarket survey on voting habits out today, in which Verdict Retail finds that Tesco shoppers are the most likely of the Big Four grocery retailers (Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda, Morrisons) to vote to stay in the European Union, with Sainsbury’s shoppers most likely to vote to leave.

Morrisons stores have the most undecided shoppers (nearly a quarter don’t yet know how they will vote), while nearly one in ten who shop in Asda are not planning to turn out. Shoppers at Aldi and Lidl – discount supermarkets – are more likely to vote to leave the European Union compared to the national average, according to the survey of 2,000 consumers.

Anoosh Chakelian is the New Statesman’s Britain editor.

She co-hosts the New Statesman podcast, discussing the latest in UK politics.

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