Do you like this Sam Gilliam painting? The answer may say more about you than you think.
A study by the progressive think tank Data for Progress has found that participants who approve of President Donald Trump are less likely to consider Sam Gilliam’s colorful abstract drawing Coffee Thyme (1980) a genuine work of art. Those who do consider Gilliam’s work to be art, are more likely to disapprove of Trump.
The correlation, being called the Coffee Thyme Gap, is even bigger than the college-degree gap, another metric commonly used to measure political divisions. Forty-five percent of college graduates approve of Trump—while just a 36 percent of those who support Coffee Thyme also support Trump
Data for Progress predicted at the outset that Trump advocates would be less likely to appreciate Coffee Thyme based on the so-called “openness to experience” personality trait, according to Vox. More commonly found among people with left-wing political opinions, the “openness to experience” attribute typically indicates a tolerance of diversity. It also often corresponds to a higher level of education and a higher IQ. A study published earlier this year found that Democrats tend to have more creative personalities than Republicans.
The so-called Coffee Thyme Gap shows that respondents are more likely to disapprove of Trump if they think the abstract drawing is art than if they have a college education. Image courtesy of Data for Progress.
Among the more than 1,100 respondents, 46 percent judged the Gilliam work to be art, while 38 percent disagreed and the other 12 percent were unsure. The study’s findings are limited to just one work of art—and one that seems cherry-picked to provoke the “My kid could do that!” response—but despite the small sample size it does provide an interesting baseline in terms of how taste in art and political opinion may align.
The results are also in line with a British study published last fall, which found that Brexit supporters typically prefer realistic artworks, while abstraction appeals to “remainers.”
Coffee Thyme is part of the collection of the Minneapolis Institute of Art, which purchased it in 1983.
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