App lets you see your favorite snack's political leanings

By Matt Porter |

Published 09/03 2014 10:22PM

Updated 09/04 2014 09:04AM

ILLINOIS -- Grocery shoppers typically look for quality and price when making decisions, but a new app is designed to help politically-motivated shoppers avoid a different type of problem. The smartphone app "BuyPartisan" offers shoppers the chance to scan any product’s barcode to see how much the company’s spent on both political parties.

“Nor did I even kind of consider that food I bought would go one way or the other to Democrats or Republicans,” said shopper Linda Wolters. “I find it quite interesting and I'm going to download the app and look into it a bit more."

Several other political contribution apps have come and gone says UIS Institute of Government and Political Affairs’ Kent Redfield. He doesn’t think the average consumer would find it useful.

“It is kind of gimmicky,” Redfield said, “most people are not intensely partisan."

He said the app is powerful, but maybe not for all the right reasons.

"It leads you to start thinking in those kinds of ways, that the whole world is Democrat, Republican, black or white,” Redfield said.

Despite having access to massive amounts of data, he said it lacks the most important factor.

"This gives you information, but it doesn't give you any kind of context or frame of reference,” Redfield said.

The app uses the camera on a phone to scan a product’s barcode and in a few seconds, users will get contribution lists from the board of directors, the CEO, all the way down to the employees.

Grocery store owner Bruce Summer says he's seen a lot of apps helping educate consumers, but never one so politically-focused.

"I like the simplicity of it,” Summer said, “and the information in it is very important, especially coming up to an election season. I think it's great."

In just the few weeks since it was created, the app has been downloaded more than 100,000 times and broke into the Top 20 Most Downloaded Apps in the Apple iTunes store.

All the information is public record. BuyPartisan compiles the data from the Center for Responsive Politics, Sunlight Foundation and National Institute for Money in State Politics; which all track and update information regularly.

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