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Whittier College News Release

Whittier College
Office of Public Relations
13406 Philadelphia St.
P.O. Box 634
Whittier, CA 90608-0634

June 11, 2004
Reference: 03/04: 54
Contact: Caroline Heldman at (562) 907-4200, ext. 4371 or
Judy Browning at (562) 907-4216


POLL SHOWS SUPERMARKETS FACING TROUBLE AFTER STRIKE: FREQUENT SHOPPERS PLUNGE

          The latest Field Research Corporation poll finds that the number of Southern Californians who frequently shop at Ralphs, Albertsons, Pavilions, and Vons supermarkets has fallen off dramatically after the recent supermarket strike by the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) union. The percentage of people who say they shop at these supermarkets “very frequently” fell from 47 percent prior to the strike to 32 percent now, two months after the end of the strike.
          “Shoppers continue to patronize the supermarkets involved in the strike,” said Caroline Heldman, assistant professor of political science at Whittier College and principal investigator for the project, “but a surprising number are doing so with less frequency. These supermarkets have lost a third of their frequent shoppers, and the fact that this plunge is persistent two months after the strike ended suggests trouble for these grocers.”
          This statistical data is based on a random sample of Southern California adults. The questions were added to Field Research Corporation’s statewide Field Poll survey and asked only of those adults living in the 10-county Southern California area. The poll was fielded on May 18 – 24, 2004.

          While the percentage of respondents who say they shop at these stores “very frequently” declined, those who say they shop “somewhat frequently” increased from 20 percent to 30 percent. Southern Californians who shop at these supermarkets “not too frequently” also increased from pre- to post-strike (19% to 26%). There was no change in the percentage of people who say they do not shop at these grocers at all.
          “Some shoppers may also be punishing the supermarkets involved in the strike,” Heldman said, “but a better explanation is that shoppers found other stores to patronize during the strike, such as Costco or Trader Joe’s, and they are continuing to shop with these retailers. It is clear that customer loyalty to these supermarkets has diminished, even in the absence of picket lines.”

MOST SOUTHERN CALIFORNIANS BOYCOTTED DURING THE STRIKE
          Sixty-eight percent of shoppers fully or partially boycotted the supermarkets during the strike. Twenty-three percent say their shopping decreased during the strike, and 33% say they stopped shopping altogether for the duration of the strike. Twelve percent of respondents stopped shopping at these stores for part of the strike, but then started again. One-in-four people, or 24%, say their shopping patterns stayed the same during the strike, and three percent say their shopping increased.
          “The outpouring of citizen action during this strike/boycott reflects a national upward trend in consumer activism, such as boycotts,” Heldman said. “Consumer activism has been around since before the nation’s founding as evidenced by the Boston Tea Party and other acts of consumer rebellion, but in the last two decades, rates of consumer activism have skyrocketed, jumping about 15 percent since 1980.” Heldman said almost two-thirds of Americans now engage in at least one boycott on an annual basis. “The number of Southern Californians who participated in the recent supermarket strike is high but not unusual considering the increasing popularity of consumer activism in the United States.”

WOMEN MORE LIKELY TO BOYCOTT THAN MEN
          The poll showed that women were more likely than men to altogether boycott the supermarkets during the strike (37% compared to 30%). Heldman said “this difference reflects a long tradition of women using their consumer dollars to further social and political ends.”

UNION HOUSEHOLDS MORE LIKELY TO BOYCOTT
          Not surprisingly, Southern Californians with a union member in their household were much more likely than others to altogether boycott the targeted supermarkets during the entire strike (45% compared to 30%).

KERRY SUPPORTERS BOYCOTTED AT TWICE THE RATE OF BUSH SUPPORTERS
          Political differences were found in terms of people who boycotted the supermarkets for the duration of the strike. People who said they plan to vote for Kerry in the presidential election were almost twice as likely than Bush supporters to have altogether boycotted the supermarkets (47% compared to 24%). This gap mirrors political party differences in terms of registered Democrats (44%) and Republicans (28%) who altogether boycotted these stores during the entire strike.

          Additional differences were also found in terms of household income, location in Southern California, political ideology, and education. For more information on the poll or The Consumer Activism Project (T-CAP), contact Heldman at (562) 907-4200, ext. 4371, cheldman@whittier.edu, or visit http://web.whittier.edu/academic/politicalscience/tcap.htm.

Located 18 miles east of Los Angeles, Whittier College is an independent, four-year college offering traditional liberal arts majors and strong pre-professional programs taught in the context of the liberal arts. Whittier Law School, which is accredited by the American Bar Association and is a member of the Association of American Law Schools, is located on a separate campus in Costa Mesa. We ask that you properly attribute this information to The Consumer Activism Project sponsored by Whittier College.

Field Research Corporation Methodology


          This statistical data is based on a random sample of Southern California adults. The questions were added to Field Research Corporation’s statewide Field Poll survey and asked only of those adults living in the 10-county Southern California area. Interviewing was conducted by telephone using a random digit dial sample methodology in either English or Spanish between the period of May 18 – 24, 2004.

          The survey was completed among a representative sample of 623 Southern California adults age 18 or older living. According to statistical theory, 95% of the time results from the overall sample would have a sampling error of +/- 4.1 percentage points. Results based on sub-groups of the overall sample would have somewhat larger sampling error estimates.

          There are many other possible sources of error other than sampling variability in this and any other public opinion survey. Different results could occur because of differences in question working, sequencing, or through undetected errors or omissions in sampling, interviewing or data processing. The Field professionals working on this study did everything possible to minimize such errors.

Respondents to the poll were asked the following questions:

The next few questions are about the recent four-month long supermarket strike in Southern California. This strike involved the UFCW union and Ralphs, Albertsons, Pavilions, Vons and Safeway supermarkets.

-- Prior to the recent supermarket strike, in general, would you say that you shopped at these stores very frequently, somewhat frequently, not too frequently or not at all?

-- During the recent supermarket strike, would you say that your trips to these supermarkets increased, stayed the same, decreased, stopped altogether, stopped for part of the strike but then started again, or something else?

-- Now that the strike is over, in general, would you say that you plan to shop at Ralphs, Albertsons, Pavilions, Vons, and/or Safeway stores very frequently, somewhat frequently, not too frequently or not at all?
 

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