The Presidential Broccoli Debate

July 13, 2013, 4:46 PM GMT+0

Most Americans like broccoli and take President Obama on his word that he does too. But perception of past Presidents' like or dislike for the vegetable is more complicated

Somehow, broccoli turns out to be the vegetable Presidents love or detest.  George H.W. Bush banned the green vegetable from Air Force One.  President Barack Obama just took the other view – that it was his “favorite food.”  Bill Clinton presumably started eating a lot of broccoli since he became a vegan.  Only George W. Bush holds a middle position on broccoli:  he once said on the 2000 campaign trail he liked the florets, and not the stalks. 

Americans in the latest YouGov Poll like broccoli.  And it’s fair to say that many of them, like the current President, even love it.   52% report they strongly like the vegetable.  Another third somewhat likes it.  Just 14% -- like the first President Bush -- don’t.

Broccoli lovers come from both parties (at least half of both Republicans and Democrats strongly like the flowery vegetable).  Those 45 and older like it more than younger adults do.  There are more broccoli lovers in the Northeast and in the West than in the South and Midwest.  But the real fans of broccoli are women (58% of them say they strongly like it) and African-Americans (62% of blacks rate broccoli highly).  Less than half of men are big fans of broccoli!

The great presidential broccoli debate has managed to steam its way into American political awareness.  Food can be, after all, more important than policy to most people.  Many know which Presidents eat their vegetables – or at least eat this vegetable. 

Americans – both broccoli lovers and broccoli haters agree that Barack Obama likes broccoli, so they believe his words – at least on this.   The President has been struggling when it comes to believability lately.  In most Economist/YouGov weekly polls, more Americans say the President mostly says what he thinks people want to hear rather than what he really thinks.  Of course, most Americans, who like broccoli, probably want their presidents to like it, too. 

George H. W. Bush’s famous dislike for the vegetable also is something Americans of all political and broccoli persuasions noticed. And Bill Clinton’s position is also known to many. 

But for many, George W. Bush’s broccoli position (generally pro-vegetable) hasn’t penetrated.  The public is closely divided on whether he likes or dislikes the vegetable.  And it seems the division mirrors political preference – if you like George W. Bush (Republicans), you are pretty sure he likes broccoli.  Democrats, most of whom are not fans of this former President, but are fans of broccoli, think he doesn’t like the vegetable.