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Before reading the rest of this report, take a moment to consider Sam Gilliam’s “Coffee Thyme” (1980), featured above. Does it strike you as a legitimate piece of fine art? Your answer to this question may indicate your political inclinations, according to a new study.
A poll conducted by the progressive think tank Data for Progress, in partnership with the left-leaning research company YouGov Blue, found that people who approve of Gilliam’s drawing are more likely to oppose President Donald Trump, while those who don’t are more likely to support the Republican president. The poll surveyed 1,100 respondents who were shown an image of Gilliam’s drawing without any further identification.
Polling on political preferences has traditionally relied on variables of race, ethnicity, age, gender, or possession of a college degree. The new poll might have been the first to attempt to find a correlation between support for the President and a respondent’s taste in art.
According to a report by Vox, the newfangled “Coffee Thyme Gap” between Trump supporters and opponents is larger than the “college degree gap” in polls. Among respondents who think “Coffee Thyme” is legitimate art, Trump’s approval rate is at 36%, whereas among college graduates he’s at 45%. Self-described Republicans in the poll who “somewhat disapprove” of the drawing register as Trump skeptics.
Data for Progress intentionally chose Gilliam’s colorful drawing to test a personality trait called “openness to experience,” Vox reported. According to the report, the pollsters predicted that people who score high on this test are more likely to belong to the left side of the political spectrum.
In an email to Hyperallergic, the Minneapolis Institute of Art, which owns the drawing, asked to clarify that “Coffee Thyme” is not a finished work but rather “a preliminary study for an editioned print series.” Gilliam, who’s now 85-year-old, is a leading figure of the third wave of Color Field painting. His work has gained renewed interest in the past year: a long-term exhibition of his works is now open at Dia: Beacon; and prior to that, an exhibition at The FLAG Art Foundation in Chelsea, New York showed new paintings he’d made.