PHILADELPHIA — As political polarization in the United States grows more severe with topics like immigration and climate change hanging in the forefront, many fired-up liberals and conservatives don’t hesitate to toss out stereotypes and barbs at one another. A new study now shows that one tongue-in-cheek term — “latte liberal” — actually has some truth to it, but not for the reasons you might expect.

Being a latte liberal, also known as a “limousine liberal,” refers to wealthier, progressive liberals who come off as “uppity and out of touch” — despite their positions on welfare and social class.

Latte being poured
A new study now shows that one tongue-in-cheek term — “latte liberal” — actually has some truth to it, but not for the reasons you might expect.

A research team at the University of Pennsylvania say that your preferred style of coffee may reflect your political leanings. A study led by Diana C. Mutz, a political science and communications professor at the university, found that people with liberal political sensibilities do indeed drink more lattes, a European-style drink, because they are generally more open to globalization and trying new things from different parts of the world. Conservatives are less likely to drink lattes because they favor nationalism and generally shun foreign products.

The study was far from representative of all Americans. Researchers recruited 1,500 adults, 1.000 of whom regularly drank coffee or coffee-related beverages.

The researchers asked study participants about their political ideologies, their coffee preferences, household income, gender, zip code, and general attitudes towards globalization. The “coffee divide” was overblown. Most coffee-drinking Americans, regardless of socioeconomic status or political ideology, prefer brewed “drip” coffee to lattes. Overall, only 16% of liberals preferred lattes over brewed coffee; 11% of moderates, and 9% of conservatives.

The correlation between a coffee drinker’s attitude toward globalization and their preference for a latte was stronger than any other factor. Of course, the vast majority coffee drinkers contribute in the global economy — most coffee is produced outside the United States and imported. The authors note another ironic twist: the latte should actually be considered the most “American” coffee beverage because it’s made with so much milk, supporting our country’s dairy industry.

The full study was published June 11, 2018 in the journal PS: Political Science and Politics.

About Ben Renner

Writer, editor, curator, and social media manager based in Denver, Colorado. View my writing at

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