Youths’ Alcohol Preferences Have Changed Dramatically Over the Past Two Decades

Gallup-Millennials-Changing-Alcohol-Preferences-Aug201360% of American adults drink alcohol at least occasionally, according to new survey results from Gallup. While that hasn’t changed much in the last, well, 75 years or so, drinkers’ preferences have shifted considerably in the past 20 years. And in no age group has that shift been more pronounced than in the 18-29 crowd. Among these young drinkers, 41% say they drink beer most regularly. That’s down from 71% of drinkers of that age 20 years ago.

The results are based on a comparison of Gallup’s annual “Consumption Habits” poll from 2012 and 2013 to results from 1992-1994. While the share of young drinkers saying they most often drink beer has dropped by 30% points, the proportion who prefer drinking wine has grown by 10% points, to 24%, while the corresponding figure for liquor is now 28%, up from 13% a couple of decades ago. (More details on Millennials and alcohol can be found here.)

Liquor is also becoming the drink of choice for more alcohol drinkers in the 30-49 age group. It is now the preferred alcoholic beverage for 24%, up from 17% of drinkers that age 20 years ago. The proportion most often drinking beer has slipped by 5% points to 43%, while the share choosing wine has dipped by 2% points, to 29%.

For adults aged 18-49, then, beer still remains the alcoholic drink of choice, but wine and liquor have closed the gap.

It’s a very different story for the 50+ crowd. Among these alcohol drinkers, wine is preferred by a large margin: 46% say they drink wine most often, and that’s up from 37% in that age group in the 1992-1994 surveys. Preference for beer is mostly flat (up a point to 29%), while the proportion saying they drink liquor most often has tumbled from 30% to 19%.

Overall, American adults who drink alcohol are as likely to say they prefer wine (35%) as to name beer (36%) their drink of choice this year. Preference for liquor (23%) remains relatively far back.

Other Findings:

  • White American drinkers’ preferences have shifted away from beer (-9% points to 37%) to wine (+7% points to 36%).
  • The shift has been even more significant among non-white drinkers, where preference for wine (+12% points to 34%) is now equal with preference for beer (-19% points to 34%).
  • 53% of male drinkers say they drink beer most often, down from 64% in the early 1990s. Liquor (22%) is slightly more popular than wine (20%). Among females, wine (+9% points to 52%) is most popular, followed by liquor (-1% points to 24%) and beer (-9% points to 20%).
  • Among drinkers overall, 35% said they had consumed an alcoholic beverage in the previous 24 hours, and another 29% in the past week. Drinking frequency appears to be higher now than it was in the 1990s.
  • Drinkers report having consumed an average of 3.8 drinks in the past week.
  • 21% of drinkers say they sometimes drink more than they should, and 29% of all Americans say alcohol is a source of problems in their family.

About the Data: Results for the Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted July 10-14, 2013, with a random sample of 2,027 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.