Better or different? How political ideology shapes preferences for differentiation in the social hierarchy

Nailya Ordabayeva*, Daniel Fernandes

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

57 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

As consumers' political opinions become more divided and more central to their identities, it is important to understand how political ideology shapes consumers' attempts to differentiate from others in the marketplace. Seven studies demonstrate that political ideology systematically influences consumers' preferences for differentiation. Conservative ideology leads consumers to differentiate from others vertically in the social hierarchy through products that signal that they are better than others, and liberal ideology leads consumers to differentiate from others horizontally in the social hierarchy through products that signal that they are unique from others. This happens because conservatism endorses, and liberalism opposes, the belief that the dominance-based hierarchical social structure is a legitimate mechanism to distinguish individual qualities. The effect is robust across measured and manipulated ideology, hypothetical and real product choices, and online searches in conservative and liberal US states. Manipulating consumers' differentiation goals and perceptions of hierarchy legitimacy mitigates the effect. The findings advance existing research on political ideology, social hierarchy, and consumer divergence, and they contribute to marketing practice.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)227-250
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of Consumer Research
Volume45
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2018

Keywords

  • Consumer differentiation
  • Divergence
  • Inequality
  • Political ideology
  • Social hierarchy

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