The daily drumbeat about continually slowing beer sales in the US sometimes needs perspective, just the sort of thing the annual Gallup survey of American drinking preferences can provide.
The latest info, from an early July survey updating Gallup’s annual Consumption Habits poll, shows that Americans who drink alcohol continue to say they most often choose beer (40%) over wine (30%) and spirits (26 percent). Beer has been the preferred alcoholic beverage in Gallup's trend for many years.
Significantly, especially for on-premise operators, Gallup found 26% of drinkers named spirits as their beverage of choice, the highest percentage for spirits in Gallup's 25-year trend survey, surpassing the 24% recorded in 2004. The percentage naming spirits has typically been closer to 20%, according to Gallup. “Future measurements will help determine whether the current figure marks the beginning of a trend toward an increased preference for liquor,” the firm said in its report.
Gallup has found once again that beer is most popular among men; this year, 62% of male drinkers say they prefer beer, compared with 19% of female drinkers. Less-educated Americans and those in the middle-income tier also tend to choose beer.
For the past two decades, at least three in 10 drinkers have said they prefer wine, peaking at 39% in 2005, Gallup says, with wine being slightly less popular in the early to mid-1990s. Women are significantly more likely than men to prefer wine (50% compared to 11% of men). Wine still is the most preferred beverage alcohol among college-educated adults.
The majority of American adults consume alcohol at least occasionally, with the current 62% figure nearly matching the 63% historical average in Gallup's trend dating to 1939. The percentage of Americans who drink has been fairly steady over nearly 8 decades, with a few exceptions; the drinking percentage was near 70% in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and had dipped below 60% at several points between the 1930s and 1950s, as well as in select polls from 1989 to 1996.
“Americans are about as likely to consume alcohol as they have been for the past eight decades,” said Gallup to conclude the report. “Many of the Founding Fathers enjoyed beer, and it remains the most popular alcoholic beverage in the U.S. today. The brewing industry has seen tremendous growth in recent decades. Americans have thousands of breweries to choose from in 2017, compared with fewer than 100 in the early 1980s.
“According to the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, spirits increased their market share in 2016 compared with 2000, which may reflect the slightly increased preference for liquor in this year's poll. Continued tracking of Americans' consumption will determine if this is a momentary fad or a turn toward a greater preference for liquor over wine and beer.”
Results for the poll were based on telephone interviews conducted July 5-9, 2017, with a random sample of 1,021 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 US states and the District of Columbia. For results based on the total sample of national adults, the margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. All reported margins of sampling error include computed design effects for weighting.