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Americans Choose Bud As Favorite Beer In National Poll

According to a new poll taken on behalf of the Rasmussen Reports by Pulse Opinion Research, When Americans Drink Beer, They Go Domestic, or as the St. Louis Business Journal spun it, America’s Favorite Beer is Bud. (And thanks to James L. for sending me the story.)

I’m sure the poll is statistically accurate, they are professionals and this is their business, but it’s a little hard to swallow that a survey of 345 people can truthfully speak for 311 million Americans. But here’s what they claim to have learned from the answers to four questions gleaned from those 345 random adults, as reported in the St. Louis Business Journal.

Nearly seven in 10 American beer drinkers are choosing domestic beers over imported ones, while only 22 percent like imported beers more.

However, those people are more evenly divided when it comes to what kind of beer to drink: 49 percent prefer a light beer, while 46 percent prefer a regular one.

When given a choice, 25 percent said say they are most likely to drink Budweiser. Second choice is Miller (19 percent) and third place went to Sam Adams (7 percent). Coors, Heineken, Corona, Pabst and Guinness are next, in descending order, with each garnering between 3 percent and 6 percent. Another percent choose some other brand.

Miller is the top choice of 26 percent of male beer drinkers, while one-out-of-three women prefer a Bud.

Here’s how it shakes out.

  1. Budweiser (25%)
  2. Miller (19%)
  3. Samuel Adams (7%)
  4. Coors
  5. Heineken
  6. Corona
  7. Pabst
  8. Guinness
  9. Other (25%)

But most of the conclusions of this little polls seem odd, almost misleading, given the questions and the way in which they were asked. Here’s what people heard when Pulse phoned potential participants with this survey.

  1. Are you more likely to order a beer in a bar or restaurant or buy it to drink at home?
  2. Are you more likely to drink a domestic beer or an imported beer?
  3. Are you more likely to drink a light beer or a regular beer?
  4. Which brand of beer are you most likely to drink … Budweiser, Miller, Coors, Corona, Heineken, Pabst, Sam Adams or Guinness?

Question one seems fine (51% home; 38% in a bar or restaurant; I don’t know where the other 11% are doing their drinking, maybe both?), but it’s fairly straightforward.

For question two, the language used seems strange. Few people outside the industry use the term “domestic,” I would think, to describe American beer. But within it, it has a very specific meaning. It’s essentially beer made by one of the big brewers, as separate and distinct from craft beer. 69% said they prefer domestic, while 22% said imported, with another 9% holding a least a third choice. But what that really means, given the muddled definitions, is hard to tell.

Question three is simply personally obnoxious, because I utterly hate the very notion of low-calorie light beer. To me it’s an abomination, albeit a very popular one. So the fact that “49% choose a light beer, while 46% prefer a regular one,” is probably right but it’s just sad to me, not to mention a triumph of marketing.

But the last question is quite telling. By giving just eight choices in a multiple choices fashion, the survey leads the people being polled to pick one of the those beers, even if it’s not their favorite. Most people likely chose one from among the eight, as opposed to their favorite among the literally 10,000+ beers brewed or sold in America. That they didn’t even offer an “other” choice further makes this question somewhat misleading, and I can only imagine how a multiple choice question differs from a more open one. But what’s perhaps more interesting is that even trying to pigeonhole the answers to question four, 25% said they’d “choose some other brand.” So while the St. Louis newspaper spins this poll by claiming American’s “top choice is Budweiser” (and curiously omit the percentage number who chose “other”), an equal number prefer “not Budweiser,” that is some other beer not among the limited choices of the poll.

I realize that the macro brewers do continue to hold a commanding market share and in the poll does reflect that. For many years, the Top 5 selling beers in the U.S. have been the following.

  1. Bud Light
  2. Budweiser
  3. Miller Lite
  4. Coors Light
  5. Corona Extra

After that, it changes a little bit from year to year, but usually the bottom five include some combination of Heineken, Busch and Busch Light, Natural Light, Michelob Ultra Light and Miller High Life. Samuel Adams, Guinness and Yuengling usually fall somewhere in the 11-15 rankings. So the poll does reflect beer sales, which is what you’d expect. “Favorite” and “best-selling” are not exactly the same, but I’d argue that sales is how people vote for the favorites. In the real world, outside polls, people vote with their wallets.

So in a somewhat accurate poll that reflects current market share patterns, one in four respondents eschewed the eight choices given them (which wasn’t even an option) and chose a beer not on the list, which was equal to the top vote getter, Budweiser. It seems to me the headline should have been more along the lines of “Equal Number of Americans Prefer A Beer Other Than Bud As Pick Budweiser As Their Favorite.” Or even better, as suggested by James Wright, “35% of Americans prefer NOT Bud, NOT Miller and NOT Coors.” Alright, they’re both a little unwieldy, but to me that’s the biggest takeaway from this poll.

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