Vegetarians and Meat Eaters Differ in Personality, Politics

It might be overstating the case to say that you are what you eat. But what you eat could reveal subtle statistical differences about you.

At least, that’s what a new study, Examining the “Veggie” Personality, from researchers in Germany suggests. Published in the journal Appetite (yum!), the research looked at differences between vegetarians and meat eaters.

Of course, there’s a huge range in variation among both groups. All vegetarians and all meat eaters aren’t the same. Still, the study did find some interesting patterns.

First, there are some demographic differences in who is more likely to become vegetarian. Overall, your typical vegetarian is more likely to be young, female and more educated, with a higher income than your typical meat eater.

Beyond that, though, it appears that there are some personality differences between the two groups. On average, the vegetarians in the study scored higher on the personality trait of openness to experience, which has to do with how interested people are in novel ideas and experiences.

By contrast, meat eaters scored higher on conscientiousness, which is related to being disciplined, reliable and hard-working.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, vegetarians and meat eaters also differed in how they approached politics. Vegetarians tended to be more interested in politics overall while meat eaters tended to score higher on conservatism.

One question the study grappled with was how to define “vegetarian.” People use this label in different ways – for example, you may know the “vegetarian” who enjoys an occasional steak. The researchers found that depending on whether they used a strict or a more lax definition of vegetarianism, 2.74 percent or 5.97 percent of the people surveyed identified as vegetarian.

The study used two samples of participants, each of around 5,000 people. One thing to note is that while the participants were representative of the general population in Germany, it’s unclear how the results would differ in other countries, where different cultural factors may impact people’s decisions about what to eat.

On the whole, though, the results suggest that at least in Germany, there are some subtle differences between vegetarians and meat eaters, in terms of demographics, personality and politics.

Image: Flickr/Hamza Butt