It seems as if every time we look at a news bulletin at the moment, there is another twist on the horsemeat scandal. First, horse was in supermarket ready meals, then in school dinners, and now pork, chicken and other substances seem to be getting in on the act. It is hardly surprising that we hear that people are turning to vegetarianism. Here at PersonaBubble, this made us reflect on what we know about the personality and characteristics of people who described themselves as vegetarians before horsemeat hit the headlines.
We’ve actually carried out two national studies where we asked people about their dietary habits. Back in 1995, our parent company asked a representative cross-section of the British public to complete a personality questionnaire . They found then that 7% of the population identified themselves as vegetarian or vegan. In 2011, we carried out a similar study with our personality questionnaire, again 7% identified themselves as vegetarian or vegan. In 1995, the main reasons people gave for becoming a vegetarian was concern for animal welfare (63% of vegetarians), with only 37% quoting dietary concerns. It is interesting to speculate what these percentages would be if we asked the same questions tomorrow – and if they would have changed back again the day after.
What can we say about vegetarians as a group? Compared with other people, they are:
- More likely to be female than male
- Likely to be educated to a higher level
- On average, slightly younger
- Politically, more likely than other people to describe themselves as Green/environmental, liberal, left or anarchist, and less likely to describe themselves as Conservative.
What about personality? From our personality questionnaire, we found that vegetarians were on average:
- More open to change, happy to try out new things, and less traditional in their outlook
- Less emotionally stable, seeing themselves as dealing less calmly with life’s stresses
- More accommodating to others, less dominant and less keen than most to influence others
- Less socially confident, sometimes holding back from expressing opinions or taking risks.
This is a very different personality from the stereotype of the strident, campaigning vegetarian, and begs the question as to whether vegetarians will take any advantage from the current situation. Already there are almost as many vegetarian jokes as horsemeat jokes doing the rounds (did you hear the latest scandal? Vegetarian meals have been found to have traces of Uniquorn!).
What about you? Has the horsemeat scandal changed your eating habits, and how does your own personality fit with this? It might be something worth thinking about… Take our free personality test and let us know what you discover about your personality in the comments section below.