Gallup’s annual Consumption Habits poll, which tracks American attitudes toward drinking and surveys who drinks what, shows wine dropping in popularity.
By Jeff Siegel
More Americans are abstaining from alcohol and “overindulging” remains near historic lows. Meanwhile, spirits have gained ground in popularity among women and younger consumers, though wine remains the beverage of choice for women, older drinkers and the wealthy.
Those are just some of the findings from Gallup’s annual Consumption Habits poll, which tracks American attitudes toward drinking and surveys who drinks what. It was conducted July 3-July 27; the results were released on Monday.
Abstention increased from 33% in 2022 to 38%, while “overindulging” remained at 19%, tied for the third lowest figure since 1978. The former may not be as significant as it seems; the number of Americans who say they don’t drink has remained in the same narrow band, between 35 and 40%, since 1982. Overall, U.S. drinkers report that they had four drinks in the past week, which matches the average since 1996 — and those four drinks per week in the 2023 numbers is remarkably consistent across every demographic.
In addition, wine was Americans’ least preferred alcoholic beverage at 29%, trailing beer (37%) and spirits (31%), though the difference between wine and spirits is within the poll’s margin of error.
Spirits, though, appeared to make inroads among women and younger consumers. More women than men prefer spirits by two points; that number was about equal last year. Among those 18 to 34, spirits trailed beer for most popular by just two points, 42 to 40%. The difference was three points in 2022.
John Gillespie of the Wine Opinions consultancy, says the survey does offer “more of the same” for the wine business. The growth of spirits, he says (with the caveat that he hasn’t looked at all of the data yet), “is the interesting factor and has been for a few years.”
That’s also the opinion of Silicon Valley Bank’s Rob McMillan, who says the numbers bear out what his annual surveys have found over the past several years — wine is the least liked of the three, and that spirits gradually overtook wine in popularity through the pandemic and its aftermath. He also notes the significance of those who abstain, citing health reasons for doing so.
Among the other survey highlights:
- Women are about three times as likely as men to say wine is their preferred beverage. Men choose beer over wine by more than three to one.
- Beer is the most preferred drink among all age groups; it even leads wine, which is second, among those 55 and older. That’s a far cry from wine’s heyday about a decade ago, when wine and beer were essentially tied.
- But beer’s popularity continues to decline as well. Reports the survey: “Beer is less dominant now than at points in the 1990s and early 2000s, when close to half said it was their preferred alcoholic beverage.”
- Even among the wealthiest Americans, those with household incomes of more than $100,000, wine holds only a one point advantage over beer. The difference was six points in 2021.
- A plurality of college graduates drink wine most often, but most of those without a degree say beer is their preferred beverage.
- Those in the lower- and middle-income groups mainly choose beer to drink, while upper-income drinkers are more evenly divided in their preferences.
- Men are more likely than women to say they sometimes overindulge when drinking, 21% versus 16%, while those older than 55 are less likely to drink to excess than younger drinkers.
- Finally, those with annual household incomes of at least $100,000 (24%) are more than twice as likely as those with incomes under $40,000 (10%) to say they occasionally drink too much.
The survey’s flat drinks per week and overindulgence numbers seems to contradict the flurry of studies and news reports that came of the pandemic that Americans — and especially women — were drinking to excess.
The survey results are based on telephone interviews (using landlines and cell phones) conducted July 3-27, 2023, with a random sample of 1,015 adults, ages 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. The margin of sampling error is ±5 percentage points for adults who drink alcohol. Overall, it’s ±4 percentage points at the 95% confidence level.
Jeff Siegel is an award-winning wine writer, as well as the co-founder and former president of Drink Local Wine, the first locavore wine movement. He has taught wine, beer, spirits, and beverage management at El Centro College and the Cordon Bleu in Dallas. He has written seven books, including “The Wine Curmudgeon’s Guide to Cheap Wine.”