Study: Liberals & Conservatives Travel & Vacation Differently

by SharonKurheg

People are already planning for their summer vacation season and, although unrelated, so is the planning for the 2024 election season. We already know how much politics has divided our country over the past few years but did you know that conservative and liberal voters even tend to travel and vacation differently?

MRI-Simmons is the leading provider of insights on the American consumer. Previously two separate research companies (GfK MRI, and Simmons Research), joined forces in early 2019. As per Linked In, “With thousands of attitudinal and behavioral data points, gathered through ongoing surveys and passive measurement, MRI-Simmons empowers advertisers, agencies and media companies with deeper insights into the “why” behind consumer behavior.”

It’s already been determined that people who lean red or blue have different preferences when it comes to television shows, grocery stores, restaurants, hotels, craft beer, and the list goes on and on. So is it any surprise that their vacations tend to be different, as well?

According to a 2019 NBC News’ report of MRI-Simmons’ survey, here are some of the key differences between the two groups:

  • 57% of liberals had passports, whereas only 48% of conservatives did. This fits in with liberals being more likely to visit a foreign country on their vacation. It may also suggest that blue flavored people might be more willing to fly to their destination than red flavored people.
  • When wanting to relax, conservatives prefer fishing and golf, whereas liberals prefer going to a beach or experiencing fine dining. It’s thought that liberals tend to be younger and are slightly more likely to have incomes over $100,000, which could tie in with their preferred ways to relax. It’s also noted in this 2018 Travel Weekly article that, “Statistically,…liberals are more likely to gravitate more toward five categories than conservatives: exploration, experiencing different cultures, experiencing new cuisines, self-discovery and meeting new people.”

NBC News showed how different destinations tend to have more left or right-leaning visitors. They used two popular tourist destinations: Branson, Missouri and Park County, Wyoming (the ski area on the eastern edge of Yellowstone National Park). Here are the cities where the most tourists were from for each of the destinations:

Denver Springfield, MO
New York Kansas City
Minneapolis St. Louis
Salt Lake City Little Rock
Seattle Oklahoma City

Parks like Yellowstone tend to get more visitors from big cities – which means more chance of flying there. But besides that, big cities tend to be politically Democratic. Branson’s visitors tend to be from smaller communities that are closer to their destination – so they drive – and many of them tend to vote Republican.

Of course, all of this doesn’t hold 100% true – case in point, I am decidedly left leaning and I like to go fishing. Also, if given a choice, I would prefer a place like Branson more so than Yellowstone. Meanwhile, I’m sure there are plenty of right-leaning people who love the beach, a good meal, and going skiing.

But I bet there’s one thing we can all agree on, regardless of which side of the political fence we lean on: going on vacation is awesome.

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Elizabeth Smock July 8, 2019 - 9:49 am

I grew up in Branson–one thing you didn’t mention is the entire city/area is PROUDLY and LOUDLY Christian and patriotic! Every show will have a prayer, every store will have a flag . . . it’s a beautiful area of the country, and Silver Dollar City is one of the most beautiful theme parks I’ve ever seen (I live near Walt Disney World, but SDC has beautiful hills and trees, not just buildings and rides!), but I always cautioned my “freakier” friends that if they couldn’t handle all the Christian patriotism, they probably shouldn’t go to Branson! I’ve been to Yellowstone as well, and I kind of think using Branson and ANY national park. but especially one relatively far from many cities or airports, isn’t really an entirely fair comparison. I love them both!

Points For Four July 8, 2019 - 11:30 am

Never heard of Branson before this article

SharonKurheg July 8, 2019 - 11:34 am

The old saying is true – you learn something new every day 🙂

Christian July 8, 2019 - 12:33 pm

I was kind of hoping that the stereotypes would prove to be wrong. Well, I guess they’re stereotypes for a reason.

SharonKurheg July 8, 2019 - 12:39 pm

There are, of course, exceptions. But otherwise, yeah.

derek July 8, 2019 - 3:14 pm

What if you are far left of liberal? Even more likely to have a passport?????

Stan July 14, 2019 - 12:09 pm

Republican Conservatives have zero intellectual curiosity.

SharonKurheg July 14, 2019 - 12:15 pm

(Full disclosure – I’m a Democrat) I disagree. I know plenty of Republicans who are smart and creative. You must hang out with the wrong Conservatives.

Steve June 6, 2020 - 1:25 pm

The mayors of Little Rock, Saint Louis and Kansas City are Democrats. I think the cities listed are more proximal than political affiliations; sans NYC.

AlohaDaveKennedy June 6, 2020 - 5:36 pm

Branson has limited air access these days. Most people have to drive in or arrive via Springfield and grab a rental car. This somewhat limits visitor access from the major urban areas, more than when Southwest flew into the Branson airport. It is a nice enough place, not prone to the looting and burning that people from Denver, New York, Minneapolis, Salt Lake City or Seattle seem to enjoy for entertainment. I guess Hillary would call the folk of Branson deplorables. No telling what the people of Branson would call Hillary.

OxyTrojan February 24, 2022 - 8:20 pm

If you think SLC is conservative, then you’re not very aware

nhscharlotte June 6, 2020 - 7:56 pm

Proud Conservative. College educated. Graduate degree. Passport holder since college. My children have passports and have travelled to more than 5 foreign countries. We are incredibly intellectually curious, well-read, from a broad variety of reading sources, that agree with our views and even more that disagree with our views. We are also large charitable givers, supporting a variety of causes that liberals support – to charities that “teach a fish” rather than create dependency. And, of course, large taxpayers. The comment above is elitist and condescending and what I unfortunately have learned to expect from many, but not all, liberals. I do not live in “flyover country” though I did grow up there. I live in a purple state, with the purple coming from the cities. Thank goodness for the Electoral college.

Vereboy February 24, 2022 - 10:09 am

I’ve been to and have spent at least a week in New Zealand, Australia, Singapore, Vietnam, Thailand, Japan, Hong Kong, Ireland, the UK, France, the Netherlands, Germany Denmark. Been to all 50 states, 9 cruises. Lifetime Gold on Qantas – all of which was on my own dollar, not work related. Favorite spot in the US? Kauai – been there 24 times, just want to lay on the beach and have dine on some amazing seafood. Surprisingly I’m a conservative gay man from Boston. The vast majority of my friends who consider themselves left leaning (although definitely not “progressive”) have never left the country except for Bermuda or Aruba. Once again, NBC news surveys are misleading.

AngryFlier February 24, 2022 - 10:54 am

Lifelong conservative here. The stereotypes listed here are a recital of stereotypes and are actually somewhat offensive. My whole family have passports and use them. Speaking for myself, I’ve traveled all over the world and we take our kids to other countries as well. I’ve never been to Branson and have no interest in going there. But, it’s in the middle of a conservative area, so it figures that the majority of visitors there would be from that part of the political spectrum. That said, expensive restaurants in New York or SF will be majority progressives – because those places are in located in deep blue areas.

This assumption that most “liberals” drink fine wine and value 5-star dining is an overly flattering stereotype. Just as there are plenty of conservatives in poor southern towns, just try to find a Republican in an urban low income housing project. Or in the most violent neighborhoods of every major city. Those people aren’t jetting off to the Maldives.

DaninMCI February 24, 2022 - 12:49 pm

NBC news isn’t really an unbiased source but Branson get’s plenty of visitors from St Louis which is more liberal that other cities on that list. I also think it’s funny they list Springfield Missouri, Duh it’s about 30 miles and almost the same metro area these days. It’s like listing Fort Worth as a source of visitors to Dallas. I don’t think it’s as much about destinations or experiences as you’d think. It is more influenced by the echo chambers that each group lives in. For example if you listen to liberal NPR as your sole news source and they tell you how awesome hiking to view climate change in Oregon is you’d be more likely go there because it’s cool. If you are in the Bass Pro Facebook group you might be more likely to go to Table Rock Lake, etc. Personally I find many older liberal travelers very arrogant. They think they are going to fly to Paris and be such a local because Rick Steve’s told them that is the only way to visit. They are rude or try to make fun of anyone that travels there to act like a tourist and see the Louvre. You can get a sample of that from the callers into his podcast. I also don’t think the information on percentage of passports is correct. Of course it sells well that “Stupid” conservatives are too uneducated or racist, or… to travel to other places.

Honolulu Lulu February 24, 2022 - 3:59 pm

The Branson visitor list appears to be largely from areas nearby to Branson. Yellowstone, obviously more widely known, has a wider audience. My comment is that those two destinations do not appear to follow any political leaning – rather that Branson is geographically more available to nearby communities. And Yellowstone has better PR.

derek February 24, 2022 - 6:36 pm

Of the 6 liberal destinations, I have been to 2 on vacation and 3, if business trips are included.
Of the 6 conservative favored destinations, I have been to none on vacation and 4 on business.
Am I liberal or conservative?

JohnB February 25, 2022 - 1:00 am

Actually the answers to the surveys were to be expected. The USA is not homogenous, nor is any demographic group, but Americans as a whole, do act in very predictable ways!

tda1986 February 25, 2022 - 11:20 am

Why are people so terrible at understanding surveys/polls? The survey is not “wrong” or “misleading” if you personally are a conservative with a passport or a liberal who loves to fish. Indeed, the survey notes that nearly half of conservatives hold passports–the conservative/liberal gap really isn’t that big, to be honest.


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