Bumper Sticker Perceptions: What Does It All Mean?
Whether you’ve placed a witty slogan on the back of your whip or you’re using the rear of your ride as a billboard for political campaigns, bumper stickers help car owners add a layer of expression to their vehicles. Bumper stickers allow drivers to share their humor, successes, and allegiances in the form of adhesive statements.
We surveyed over 2,000 U.S. drivers to understand their thoughts and perceptions of several popular bumper stickers. Are we a nation not only divided by party lines but also by our love or hate of bumper stickers?
What Your Bumper Sticker Really Says
Almost every bumper sticker agitates another driver. If you want to be seen as ignorant by fellow motorists, there are two types of bumper stickers that will give off this vibe: the Confederate flag and a Trump/Pence political sticker. Around 34 percent felt the Confederate flag showed an uneducated opinion, while 28 percent were seen as ignorant for their display of a Trump/Pence sticker.
When it came to drivers who were annoying or obnoxious due to their bumper sticker choice, only those who displayed a “Support Our Troops” sticker were comparatively free from this scrutiny. But drivers who viewed a pro-gun, coexist, and parent of an honor roll child bumper stickers saw their fellow motorists as the most annoying or obnoxious (nearly 21 percent).
Marathon runners – who think taking a 26.2-mile trip by foot is as good as taking a ride in their car – were viewed as totally normal or reasonable by 34 percent of those surveyed.
Lastly, proud parent bumper stickers were perceived as an expression of pride. Bumper stickers sharing the car’s operator may be the parent of an honor roll student were seen by almost 52 percent as a sticky moment of pride.
Your State’s Favorite Sticker
It’s no surprise states are divided on issues other than politics. In this case, bumper stickers! While in Florida, Georgia, Wisconsin, Ohio, and Michigan, the top bumper sticker plastered to cars were related to family, other states – like those near or within the tri-state area and Washington – possessed more college-related stickers. Because the choice of sticker tends to be an expression of opinion and pride, we can infer residents from each state had their own state-specific things to be proud about.
Interestingly, California was one of only three states to prefer bumper stickers expressing political beliefs – possibly even tied with talk of residents in California petitioning to secede from the U.S. Who would have thought state regionalism could be so transparent?
From Sea to Shining Bumper
Nowhere in the U.S. were bumper stickers more prevalent than in the South. In fact, bumper stickers may be a way of life in Alabama, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Tennessee. Sixty-eight percent of respondents from these states, or over two out of every three, had at least one bumper sticker. Respondents from Delaware to Florida also loved bumper stickers, with at least 63 percent having at least one.
Those in the West and Great Lakes region, however, did not completely agree with their Southern counterparts when it came to favoring bumper stickers, as only about 50 percent had at least one bumper sticker on their vehicle.
Interestingly, women were overwhelming more likely to have a bumper sticker on their car – 63 percent compared to 50 percent of men.
According to survey respondents, the most popular bumper stickers were related to sports, fitness, or leisure activities (just over 17 percent). These are probably marathoners (or half-marathoners), anglers, CrossFit athletes, or other active individuals “who would rather be surfing” than commuting to their 9-to-5 jobs.
Politics came in second overall, with many drivers unafraid to use their freedom of speech on public highways. College pride rounded out the top three. Who doesn’t want to share some school spirit when they’re en route to the game or heading back to campus for homecoming or Parent’s Weekend?
50 States of Stickers
When it came to those advertising their love of CrossFit or their ability to complete long-distance races, those living on the Atlantic seaboard from Delaware to Florida didn’t miss a moment to shine. Over 13 percent of participants in this region had bumper stickers focused on sports, fitness, and leisure activities. These could also be people sharing their pride for their favorite sports teams, such as last year’s Super Bowl runner-up, the Atlanta Falcons.
Those who wanted a little more humor in their bumper stickers resided in the heart of Texas and surrounding states. While you may not want to mess with Texas, it’s clear Texan drivers don’t mind a bit of “hee-haw” in their bumper sticker’s messaging. Those taking life a little more serious were all across the Atlantic Coast, as far up as New York.
While their bumper stickers didn’t need to be political in nature, over 82 percent of drivers affiliated with the Green Party drove around with some sticker on their bumper. While they might be advocating for a candidate, there are several issues the Green Party is currently concerned about, which could provide inspiration for their bumper stickers. These topics include free child care, environmental defense, and tuition-free higher education.
Republicans were more often found with bumper stickers than Democrats. Over 61 percent of drivers who identified as Republican – compared to 56 percent who were Democrat – had a bumper sticker on their vehicle. Independents were least likely to have a bumper sticker on their car.
Sharing an Important Choice
In 2016, 56 percent of Americans believed “abortion should be legal in all or most cases.” But that doesn’t stop the pro-choice and pro-life debate from raging on across the U.S. One way the conversation continues? Bumper stickers.
With close to 60 percent of Republicans believing abortion should be illegal in most cases, 37 percent found pro-choice bumper stickers to be annoying or obnoxious. However, Democrats often viewed those displaying a pro-life bumper sticker as ignorant (32 percent) and annoying or obnoxious (30 percent).
Libertarians or Independents seemed to share similar feelings about bumper stickers on both sides of the issue. Regarding pro-life stickers, 32 percent of Libertarians and 31 percent of Independents found them to be annoying or obnoxious, and 17 percent each felt they were signs of ignorance. When looking at those with a pro-choice bumper sticker, 30 percent of Independents and 35 percent of Libertarians thought they were also obnoxious.
Stick It to You
Bumper stickers provide a way to personalize one’s car beyond its color and minor cosmetic adjustments. Many people do use bumper stickers, and they’re generally tolerant of others who choose to do the same. While we’re most likely to catch a sports-themed sticker flying by on the rear of the car in front of us, we shouldn’t be surprised by politically inspired or school-specific stickers on the road.
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We surveyed more than 2,039 U.S. drivers about their thoughts and perceptions related to a series of different types of bumper stickers.
Fair Use Statement
Feel free to take these images and plaster them all over your rides, or websites, for noncommercial purposes. But do the right thing and link back to this page so the drivers (the authors) get credit.