What Our Favorite Monsters Tell Us About America: Vampires, Politics, and Zombies

October 12, 2017 | Posted in News


AtmosFX Celebration Census 2017

Some social scientists are telling us that they can predict what Americans are worried about—and even our politics—by what monsters are on our minds. 

It may sound a little crazy but, just after the 2008 election, Peter Rowe with the San Diego Union Tribune asked: are vampires the monsters of Democratic eras, and zombies of Republican ones? His article pulled up some interesting data to support the idea. A chart created shortly after showed that yes, there is correlation between the popularity of zombie films and when the US enters into periods of war and social upheaval. But, does the American taste in monsters tell us about our political leanings, too?

Cracked.com ran with the idea in 2011 with, 6 Mind-Blowing Ways Zombies and Vampires Explain America. Here, they expanded on the common belief that: “horror feeds off the anxieties of the times,” and claimed the division between monsters and politics breaks down like this:

  • Conservatives fear vampires because vampires are: sexually deviant, foreigners, and parasites. 
  • Liberals fear zombies because the shambling undead are: mindless consumers, repressive conformists, and infectiously mindless.

Other sources argue for reversing the order (conservatives fear the mob, liberals fear capitalist vampires, etc) but neither these contrarians nor the folks at Cracked.com have any hard data for their assertions.

However, the general idea of a connection between monsters and politics seems to have stuck.

By http://www.cgpgrey.com, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=37514045

Just this year, The New York Times published an article using the term zombie as nomenclature for “policy ideas that should have been abandoned long ago in the face of evidence and experience, but just keep shambling along.” 

“Vampire policies,” the Times added, ”can’t survive daylight.” 

The AtmosFX Results

So, what did the AtmosFX Celebration Census find? Is there any truth to these tales of gloom and woe? Are politics relevant? What monsters are on our collective minds this Halloween?

Granted, our question asked respondents “what monster most reminds you of Halloween?” If we take all the above seriously, we should expect some correlation between political leanings, the current administration, and a preference for zombies v. vampires. What we found was this:

Vampires and Zombies

Vampires consistently win out despite the president being Republican, but conservatives, liberals, centrists, and “others” all prefer vampires. You could say “mostly liberals” love them most, but that’s about it. Politics just don't seem to matter.

Witches Win

It wasn't either vampires or zombies people think of most when it comes to Halloween, but witches, with 31.4% of those surveyed picking it as the top option among eight common Halloween items. Ghosts (19.7%) and Skeletons (18%) followed as second and third overall.

The only variation seems to be among respondents who were “mostly” of either political leaning (versus consistently). Both had a slight but noticeable preference for skeletons over ghosts as the symbol of Halloween.

Looking at different age groups, the top trio overall was not changed, although Skeletons were more beloved than Ghosts in the younger half of the age range (18-24, 25-34, 35-44).

So what have we learned? If the vampire v. zombie political divide is indeed true, it would seem that around Halloween, Americans tend to put aside their political tastes in favor of witches, ghosts, skeletons, and candy (see our last Celebration Census report).

Maybe Halloween really is a magical time, a universal holiday that brings people together for tricks and treats; harmless frights and good-natured pranks — at least for a few days a year.

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About This Report

The AtmosFX Census is a part of an ongoing study of people’s spending patterns, behavior, and insights into celebration and popular culture.

The data this report was collected by an independent third party survey company, exclusively for AtmosFX in June 2017. The sample size was 1,000 individual responses, via a blind online panel, distributed across gender, age, and location in the United States. Most responses have a confidence interval of about 3.4%.

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