Study: Trump states sell fewer green cars than Clinton states

May 11, 2017

It's Thursday, and if you're anything like us, you're probably a bit antsy for the weekend to start. Why not liven up things up with a recap of a clickbait-y study conducted by a website you've never heard of?

You in? Great. 

The study comes from the curiously named Carjojo, which we believe is a reference to the Powerpuff Girls' perennial nemesis, Mojo Jojo. (Then again, maybe not.) Carjojo is a car shopping site, and like many such sites, it's published a series of studies to show that it's a true automotive authority. 

Its latest study examines U.S. sales of hybrids and electrics (not including Teslas) from October 2016 to March 2017. The site then cross-references that green-car data with a map of the electoral college outcome from the 2016 presidential election.

What do we learn from the study? Here are some of the major bulletpoints:

In the two areas of the country that voted most heavily for Donald Trump, green car sales were very low. The worst states for green car adoption were those in the Midwest (i.e. Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, Wisconsin), where 75 percent of electoral college votes went to Trump. On average, one green car was sold for every 10,000 Midwest residents during the six months covered by the study. 

In the South (Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia), 92 percent of electoral college votes went to Trump. Between October and March, between 1.14 and 1.22 green cars were sold for every 10,000 Southern residents.

The Northeast (Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, New York, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware) was the most anti-Trump region of the country, giving him just 19 percent of their electoral college votes. Interestingly, green car sales there weren't much higher than in the South, ranging between 1.34 and 1.44 sales for every 10,000 residents.

The big difference is notable in the West (Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, Idaho, Utah, Arizona, Nevada, Washington, Oregon, California, Alaska, Hawaii), which was also largely anti-Trump, giving him only 23 percent of their electoral votes. Over the six months covered by the study, between 4.26 and 4.6 green cars were sold for every 10,000 residents, easily making it the most green car-friendly area of the country.

Most interestingly of all, in regions that supported Clinton, green car sales edged up between the last quarter of 2016 and the first quarter of 2017. In regions that supported Trump, though, green car sales fell during the six months.

What does any of that data tell us? Carjojo doesn't put forward that many hypotheses, other than to say that green-car marketers aren't doing a good job of connecting with would-be buyers and explaining why they should pay more for an EV or hybrid than a comparable car with a combustion engine. That said, those marketers' tasks have been made harder by gas prices that hover near historic lows.  

We would go a bit further, pointing out that many of the states that voted for Trump are physically large, with significant numbers of rural and exurban residents. For them, the added benefits of electric and hybrid vehicles may not outweigh the premium prices or the range anxiety. Clinton-friendly states tend to be smaller, with populations heavily concentrated in urban areas. Even in larger states like California, state subsidies and other benefits may be helping to drive green car sales. 

Sadly, it may also be a matter of partisan politics bleeding over into our purchasing decisions. As America becomes more polarized, it's possible that consumers feel increasingly compelled to define themselves by the things they buy, including cars. We have zero data to support that theory, but we wouldn't be surprised to learn that that's what's led to an increase in green car sales in blue states and a decrease in red states. 

Either way, it'll be interesting to see if these trends continue over time. Stay tuned. 

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