For the fourth time in as many presidential elections, 7-Eleven Inc.’s coffee-drinking customers have correctly called the U.S. presidential election in its unabashedly unscientific, unofficial, just-for-fun 7-Election presidential coffee-cup poll.
7-Election results had President Barack Obama out-cupping Republican challenger Mitt Romney handily, with 59% of the 7-Eleven caffeinated electorate selecting blue Obama cups over 41% for the red Romney cups.
The real election was closer. Most of the national polls showed President Barack Obama with a razor-thin lead or tied with former Gov. Romney. The coffee-cup poll at 7-Eleven stores predicted the overall presidential race winner once again, indicating a Democratic victory in 31 out of the 34 states and the District of Columbia where it operates and franchises stores. In the popular vote, as of this writing—and Florida’s total notwithstanding—Obama carried 50.3% of the vote to Romney’s 48.1%.
Between Sept. 6 and Election Day, millions of hot-beverage drinkers have been “voting” at 7-Eleven stores in the company’s fourth 7-Election campaign by choosing a large-size blue Obama cup, red Romney cup or the stores’ normal—and nonpartisan—green coffee cup.
Like the “professional” polls showed in the last weeks of the campaign, the 7-Election margin between the two candidates narrowed. Obama held a significant lead throughout the nine-week voting period at 7-Eleven stores and led by as much as 30 points in September. By the end of October, however, Romney had narrowed the cup gap, trailing by just under 13 points.
While Obama carried the lead during the entire promotion, the margin between him and Romney expanded and contracted. Interestingly, as the four debates (three presidential and one between the vice presidential candidates) and Hurricane Sandy appeared to influence national polls and pundits, 7-Election coffee-cup sales also spilled over to one side or the other in their wake.
After the first debate, which most agreed Romney won handily, Obama’s lead had slipped to 15%. On the day following each of the three remaining debates, all heralded as Democratic wins, 7-Eleven’s blue cup sales went up slightly.
But the debate bounce appeared short-lived. A few days after the third debate, the president’s margin began to slip to 12.8% ahead of his Republican challenger. Media headlines called it “Mitt-momentum.”
That was until Hurricane Sandy bore down on the East Coast. After the superstorm and the president’s visit to the Jersey shore, his 7-Election numbers began to creep back up, landing on 17% higher than Romney the day before the election.
“Every time we have held the 7-Election poll, we go into it having no idea how American coffee-drinkers will vote. That we have had such a successful track record is as much a surprise to us as anyone,” said Laura Gordon, 7-Eleven vice president of brand innovation. “Our customers are everyday-Americans going about their daily lives, stopping in our stores to buy a cup of coffee and show their support of their favorite candidate.”
So why did the 7-Election polling appear to favor the Democrat candidate in greater numbers than other polls or the actual vote?
“The majority of stores operated and franchised by 7-Eleven are in urban and suburban areas, compared to those considered rural, which are reported to favor the Republican candidate,” said Gordon.
“While we operate and franchise stores in 34 states and the District of Columbia, 7-Eleven has more stores in blue states than red,” Gordon added. “Bottom line, we have some fun with 7-Election and, if we reminded people of the importance of voting in the ‘real’ election, even better.”
7-Election cup tallies represented stores in 26 of the 29 2008 “blue” states* (including Washington, D.C.), and eight of the 22 2008 “red” states.
7-Eleven’s typical shopper is between the ages of 18 and 34. Polling results showed 66% of voters aged 18 to 29 years old and 52% of those 30 to 44 years of age would vote for the Democratic presidential nominee.
Besides its in-store coffee-cup voting, 7-Eleven took the 7-Election campaign to the people via the Mobile Oval, a mini-Presidential Oval Office on wheels. All told, the Mobile Oval traveled 12,000 miles; the 7-Election street teams sampled 40,000 cups of coffee, gave away 25,000 refillable 7-Eleven coffee mugs and took photos of more than 2,000 people looking presidential in the Mobile Oval.
This makes the fourth straight presidential election in which the company’s 7-Election got it right nationally. In 2000, 2004 and 2008, the 7-Election-cup poll was within a few percentage points of the final election results.
*Hawaii, a blue state, did not participate in 7-Election, although 7-Eleven stores operate there.