Watch Live: The Washington Ideas Forum 2014

Chart of the Day: The CafePress Primary

What can Internet sales of T-shirts, bumper stickers, and other memorabilia tell us about the state of the presidential race?

cafepressinfographic.banner.jpg

CafePress

You've probably heard of retail politics -- the dirty business of hitting the road, shaking hands, meeting as many voters as possible, and wearing out the soles of your shoes, Adlai Stevenson style. It's what helped Rick Santorum win his upset win over Mitt Romney in Iowa and launch the improbable insurgent campaign that ended Tuesday.

But here's another definition: how much merch the candidates are moving. CafePress sent over this infographic. It's admittedly unscientific, although they boast that sales of Barack Obama products predicted the 2008 election (really, though, were even the most rabid John McCain backers likely to sport T-shirts?). Some of the results are fairly intuitive: For example, people on the Internet really like Ron Paul, which explains why he's continued to capture at least a plurality of Republican merchandise sales on CafePress for most of the campaign, even as he has become less and less relevant to the nomination battle. The spikes for Herman Cain and Rick Perry, corresponding to the zeniths of their campaigns, make sense, as does the gradual but inexorable growth of Romney sales.

Check out the second graph, though, for a demonstration of how the primary season has hurt Republicans. You might think that the chance for GOP voters to go to the polls would have them more fired up or that they'd want to show their support in advance of ballots. On the contrary, though, the Republican share of sales starts to tank right around December 1, as the full attention of the political sphere turned to Iowa. So as the candidates became more visible, their voters got less excited; meanwhile, Obama's got more enthused. Think this is mere speculation, a silly linking of shirt sales and polling popularity? Look at this graph, from Talking Points Memo's poll aggregator, via Andrew Sullivan. The trend works in exactly the same way:

obamaromneygraph.jpg

And as the third graph shows, the disparity between pro-Obama and anti-Obama gear shrunk over the same period. Life imitates art, but commerce imitates politics.

Presented by

David A. Graham is a senior associate editor at The Atlantic, where he oversees the Politics Channel. He previously reported for Newsweek, The Wall Street Journal, and The National.

Things Not to Say to a Pregnant Woman

You don't have to tell her how big she is. You don't need to touch her belly.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Things Not to Say to a Pregnant Woman

You don't have to tell her how big she is. You don't need to touch her belly.

Video

Maine's Underground Street Art

"Graffiti is the farthest thing from anarchy."

Video

The Joy of Running in a Beautiful Place

A love letter to California's Marin Headlands

Video

'I Didn't Even Know What I Was Going Through'

A 17-year-old describes his struggles with depression.

Video

Google Street View, Transformed Into a Tiny Planet

A 360-degree tour of our world, made entirely from Google's panoramas

Video

The Farmer Who Won't Quit

A filmmaker returns to his hometown to profile the patriarch of a family farm

Video

Riding Unicycles in a Cave

"If you fall down and break your leg, there's no way out."

Video

Carrot: A Pitch-Perfect Satire of Tech

"It's not just a vegetable. It's what a vegetable should be."

More in Politics

Just In