Income and education are key factors
The Gallup people have just released their latest annual survey of drinking in America as well as a poll on marijuana trial and usage. Gallup has conducted the alcohol survey every year since 1939 and the marijuana poll has been running since 1969.
Some key findings:
- Overall, 64% of Americans say they drink alcohol – unchanged over the years.
- Upper income and highly educated Americans are most likely to say they drink alcohol.
- Beer is the most widely preferred drink.
- More than 4 in 10 say they have tried marijuana with 10% claiming to be current smokers as compared with 7% two years ago.
Alcohol and drinking over the years remains consistent
Gallup has been asking the same question over the years – Do you have occasion to use alcoholic beverages such as liquor, wine, or beer? The proportion saying yes has remained consistent – 58% in 1939, in the 60% area since then and 64% in 2015.
The form of alcohol Americans most often drink remains fairly consistent with the past. 42% report beer most often, 34% say wine and 21% favor liquor.
Socio-economic status and drinking correlate
This year’s analysis focused on education and income as it relates to who drinks. In a nutshell, upper income and higher educated Americans are more likely than others to drink. They postulate that upscale Americans have more opportunities for drinking occasions such as dining out and going on vacation. Sounds right to me. But I don’t think that’s it entirely.
What I found most interesting is that nearly half (47%) of those with incomes over $75,000 are more likely to have had a drink in the past 24 hours. Among college graduates it’s 45%. So there’s a fair amount of at home drinking.
They also asked about overindulging and there were no difference by income level. But, there were significant differences by education with college graduates less likely to report being “over served.” They offer two explanations. One is that “those with more formal education may be less willing to report a socially undesirable behavior in a public opinion survey.”
The other is “Data from various government and academic studies confirm the relationship between income and alcohol consumption. The studies also indicate upper-income drinkers mostly drink in moderation, but lower-income Americans tend to abstain completely, or to drink heavily.”
Type of alcohol
As mentioned, beer is the dominant type of alcohol consumed, but before you beer folks start high-fiving, consider the growth in craft beer and the decline in mainstream beer brands. In fact, those with higher incomes are equally as likely to drink beer and wine most often.
Marijuana trial and usage
Earlier in the month Gallup reported on a poll that delved into cannabis experimentation and current use.
As the chart below reveals, the percentage of Americans who say they have tried marijuana has steadily increased since the first measurement in 1969 – from 4% to 44% in the span of less than 50 years.
Legalization in some states plus the growing support for legalization is an obvious factor. In a study conducted in 2014, Gallup found that overall 51% of Americans favor legalization, Conservatives and Republicans are more likely to be opposed and those in states in the East and West are the biggest supporters.
Finally, the recent Gallup study on marijuana shows that 1 in 10 Americans said yes and this is up from 7% two years ago.
Is there any doubt that marijuana legalization will continue and that usage will as well?
The Northwest News Network (a collaboration of public radio stations in Washington, Oregon and Idaho) reported this week that Washington’s Liquor Control Board is getting a new name. It will become the Liquor and Cannabis Board.
Portends of things to come.