NEW YORK, N.Y. – While consumers increasingly alternate between alcohol categories depending on the drinking occasion, everyone has a favorite beverage to sip on – a trusted go-to regardless of the time or place. For nearly 4 in 10 regular drinkers (U.S. adults ages 21+ who drink alcohol several times a year or more), beer is that beverage of choice (38%), followed by wine (31%), and spirits/liquor (28%). But has it always been like this?
Most regular drinkers who say beer is their beverage of choice today also say it was their go-to alcohol beverage 2 years ago (83% of those 23+) and 10 years ago (73% of those 31+). A majority of today’s spirit choosers say the same as well, with 78% stating they preferred liquor/spirits 2 years ago (of those 23+) and 63% 10 years ago (of those 31+).
Wine drinkers, on the other hand, tell a slightly different story. While nearly three quarters of today’s wine drinkers say they also preferred wine 2 years ago (73% of those 23+), just 4 in 10 say the same of 10 years ago (44% of those 31+). Many of today’s wine drinkers (ages 31+) had a different top pick a decade ago and say they were instead drinking liquor/spirits (26%) or beer (21%).
According to Danny Brager, SVP of Nielsen’s Beverage Alcohol Practice, “While many consumers will increasingly drink across all three major adult beverage categories, they still have their ‘preferred’ drink type. At the same time, all consumers are not alike, and various demographic groups clearly have different favorites. For some, that ‘go to’ choice hasn’t changed a great deal, but for a significant percentage of those who favor wine today, they did prefer another beverage type 10 years ago. Both life stage changes over that period of time as these consumers have aged, as well as today’s younger generations being more open to wine, are likely driving those changes in preference.”
These are some of the results of The Harris Poll® of 2,148 U.S. adults ages 21+ (including 1,540 adults ages 21+ who drink several times a year or more, i.e., “regular drinkers”) surveyed online between January 18 and 20, 2017.
While beer may take the cake over the years, a deeper look shows it is not everyone’s top pick. Beer is favored among men (55%), younger generations (21-34, 41%; 35-44, 44%; 45-54, 42%), and those residing in the South (43%).
Wine, however, beats out beer as the top pick among women (46%), adults ages 65+ (42%), and adults in high income households (37%, HH income of $100K+). Spirits trail just a bit behind wine overall, but have generally equal strength in preference among various demographic groups versus larger variances seen in beer and wine across these same groups.
Adults whose current beverage of choice is beer favor domestic non-craft beer (38%), followed by craft beer (29%), and imported beer (23%).
Those who prefer wine say their favorite type is red (38%), followed by white (32%) and, more distantly, rose or blush (19%) and sparkling wine/champagne (10%). Men are significantly more likely than women to prefer red (49% vs. 34%).
The favorite liquor among spirit drinkers is vodka (29%), followed closely by whiskey (26%), and more distantly by rum (16%), tequila (8%), and cognac (7%). Men are significantly more likely than women to favor whiskey (40% vs. 14%), while women are twice as likely to choose vodka (38% vs. 19%).
This Harris Poll was conducted online within the United States between January 18 and 20, 2017 among 2,148 adults (aged 21 and over). Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online.
All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to multiple sources of error which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments. Therefore, The Harris Poll avoids the words “margin of error” as they are misleading. All that can be calculated are different possible sampling errors with different probabilities for pure, unweighted, random samples with 100% response rates. These are only theoretical because no published polls come close to this ideal.
Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Harris Poll surveys. The data have been weighted to reflect the composition of the adult population. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in our panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.
These statements conform to the principles of disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.
The results of this Harris Poll may not be used in advertising, marketing or promotion without the prior written permission of The Harris Poll.
The Harris Poll® #6, February 3, 2017
By Allyssa Birth, Senior Research Analyst, The Harris Poll
About The Harris Poll®
Begun in 1963, The Harris Poll is one of the longest running surveys measuring public opinion in the U.S. and is highly regarded throughout the world. The nationally representative polls, conducted primarily online, measure the knowledge, opinions, behaviors and motivations of the general public. New and trended polls on a wide variety of subjects including politics, the economy, healthcare, foreign affairs, science and technology, sports and entertainment, and lifestyles are published weekly.
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