Abstract: Analyzing the Panera Theory through Mathematical Modeling

Hi everyone! I’m so excited to start my research, as my passion for both mathematics and government lend themselves well to this project. My abstract for my freshman Monroe summer research is as follows:

Following the Democratic Party’s dismal showing in the 2016 presidential election, there have been conflicting perspectives on how to best prepare the party for electoral battles in 2018 and beyond. Progressives have urged reaching out to minority voters and women as potential monoliths of support, as both groups have demonstrated their distaste en masse for President Trump’s administration. Other leading Democratic figures encourage the party to redirect attention towards regaining white, working-class voters in the Midwest that supported President Obama, then decisively voted for then-candidate Trump two years ago. Recently, some progressive strategists are starting to claim that the path to victory for Democrats in 2018 and 2020 lies with well-educated and affluent suburbanites who disapprove of President Trump. Brian Fallon, a former strategist for Hillary Clinton’s failed presidential campaign, asserted last year that Democrats should focus on attracting “Panera voters” (i.e, the suburban, family-oriented, middle to upper-middle class voters who frequent fast-casual restaurants) as these would be the individuals most likely to swap partisan allegiance and support Democratic candidates in the 2018 midterms.

There has been little research to determine if Fallon’s Panera Theory is accurate, and if jurisdictions with a higher prevalence of Paneras actually reported a shift towards the Democratic Party in the most recent presidential election. I intend to evaluate the political ‘swing’ of each county in the United States from the 2012 presidential election to the 2016 presidential election, and then determine if there is a meaningful relationship between that swing and the amount of Paneras within the county; did counties with an increased prevalence of Paneras actually report less of a swing towards Republican candidate Donald Trump than the nation as a whole? And if so, does this suggest that the Democratic Party needs to attract these ‘Panera voters” to succeed in the 2018 midterms and beyond? I hope to answer these questions using basic mathematical analysis, either by OLS (ordinary least squares) regression analysis or by correlative coefficient analysis; these modeling techniques will help to identify if meaningful relationships exist between vote share and Panera prevalence.

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