PRINCETON, NJ — For only the second time in two decades, wine ties beer as the top choice when U.S. drinkers are asked whether they most often drink liquor, wine, or beer. Gallup now finds nearly as many U.S. drinkers naming wine (35%) as beer (36%), while liquor still registers a distant third at 23%.
The 36% of U.S. drinkers favouring beer in Gallup’s July 7-10 poll ties for the lowest Gallup has recorded for the popular beverage since initiating this measure in 1992. The other low reading came in 2005, at the same time Americans’ preference for wine temporarily surged to 39%. Beer regained a solid lead at the top spot, until this year.
The 35% now favouring wine and 23% liquor are near the record highs for these beverages, although preferences have generally fluctuated around the current levels since about 2003.
Preference for beer declined among all age groups this year, but it fell the most among young adults — dropping to 39% today from 51% in 2010. By contrast, middle-aged adults’ preference for beer fell just three percentage points (to 41% from 44%), and older adults’ fell two points (to 27% from 29%).
Younger adults’ decreased preference for beer is accompanied by slight increases in their preferences for liquor and wine. Additionally, 2% of young adults this year volunteered that they most often drink cordials, up from less than 1% in 2010 and in most prior years.
Men, Young Adults, Midwesterners Exhibit Strongest Beer Preference
Gallup continues to document strong demographic differences in drink preferences, particularly along gender, age and socio-economic lines.
Nearly half of male drinkers, 48%, say they most often drink beer, followed by liquor at 26%, while 51% of female drinkers prefer wine. This pattern is consistent with prior years, although the preference for beer is down slightly among both groups compared with 2010.
Older adults tend to prefer wine, while — despite the recent decline among young adults — the plurality of younger and middle-aged adults favour beer.
As a result of these distinctions by age and gender, there are extremely sharp differences in drink preferences between younger men and older women, with most of the former preferring beer, and the latter, wine. Older men and younger women have somewhat more varied preferences.
Geographically, beer enjoys its greatest popularity in the Midwest, while wine does best in the East and liquor in the South and West. Adults with no college education and those in lower-income households are also much more likely to favour beer. Nonwhites are more likely than whites to favour liquor.
The predominance of beer as Americans’ favourite drink has waned over the past two decades, but that decline was punctuated this year with a five-point drop in mentions of beer, from 41% to 36%. This was driven largely by a 12-point decline among younger adults. Beer’s loss corresponds with slight gains in preferences for wine and liquor, both of which consequently register near their two-decade highs in 2011.
While meaningful, this year’s shifts are not much different in magnitude from those seen in 2005 — changes that proved temporary. Whether beer continues to lose ground to other forms of liquor or rebounds may depend on the future direction of young adults’ drink preferences.
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