Do Political Attitudes Affect Consumer Choice? Evidence from a Large-Scale Field Study with Genetically Modified Bread in Switzerland
Independent of the left-right model of ideological structure, genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in food and agriculture are resented across the political spectrum in Switzerland. In the absence of any real experience with genetically modified (GM) food but faced with continuous exposure to warning messages in the media, conditioned feelings related to such a politically sensitive product may have a significant influence on revealed consumer choice. In our large-scale field study, we examined this assumption by selling three types of bread labeled as ‘made with organic corn’, ‘made with genetically modified corn’ and ‘made with conventional corn’ respectively in five locations across Switzerland using different price scenarios and selling groups. Customers who decided to buy bread also received an envelope containing a questionnaire about their prior political attitude expressed through their voting decision in a national referendum on a five-year ban on GMOs in 2005. The results demonstrate that consumer purchase decisions are determined by contextual factors not captured by general political attitudes. Surprisingly, the mere presence of GM food did have a positive impact on overall sales. The assumption that consumers would feel turned off by the mere presence of GM food for political reasons can therefore be safely discarded.
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