So Much for Drowning Your Sorrows - Drinkers Drink in Good Times More Than Bad

Beer is the alcoholic beverage of choice after both really good days and really bad days

Mar 15, 2016, 05:00 ET from The Harris Poll

NEW YORK, March 15, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- A recent Harris Poll looked at what situations have Americans (aged 21+) reaching for an adult beverage, and more specifically, which ones they're reaching for. The answers were a bit surprising. Among those who drink alcohol at least a few times a year, adults are more likely to imbibe when faced with a good situation compared to a bad one. So much for drowning our sorrows!

More specifically, vast majorities of drinkers say they have alcohol when celebrating a special occasion (86%), on their birthday (73%), or when they have a really good day (72%). Fewer thirst for booze on the not-so-good days: six in ten say they imbibe when they have a really bad day (60%) and over half when they're stressed (52%), while just four in ten reach for a bottle after a breakup (40%).

These are some of the results of The Harris Poll® of 2,191 U.S. adults (ages 21 and older) surveyed online between December 9 and 14, 2015. Full results of this study, including data tables, can be found here.

Cheers to the good times
While most drinkers are tipping it back during good times, the specific occasion appears to dictate what they're reaching for. When it comes to celebrating something special, those who drink at least a few times a year are most likely to reach for wine (53%) – with 38% reaching for sparkling wine and 37% for table – followed by liquor (46%) and beer (41%).

  • While there's little deviation from the choice of wine based on demographics, a few key groups do stand out in their drink of choice. Men and Millennials both turn first to beer for their celebratory toast, while Southerners turn to liquor.

On their birthdays, drinkers are perfectly split between a desire for beer, liquor, and wine, with 34% turning to each of these on their special day. Favorite birthday beverages differ greatly based on key demographics, with beer, wine and liquor each appearing at the top of someone's list.

And when it comes to a plain old really good day, beer becomes the drink of choice (40%), followed by wine (33%) and liquor (27%).

  • Among women and Matures, however, wine is what they're reaching for.

And to the bad
On the not-so-sunny side of things, beer is the drink of choice for each of the less pleasant occasions. During a really bad day, nearly three in ten (27%) pick up a beer, followed by liquor (24%) and wine (20%).

  • However, popping the tab on a cold one isn't for everyone after a bad day. Women, Southerners, Matures, Republicans, those in a rural setting, and drinkers without kids in the house prefer to open their liquor cabinets on such occasions.

When stress is the culprit, beer ranks first (21%) followed closely by liquor (20%) and wine (18%). Much like birthday booze, the alcohol used to calm a frazzled psyche is just as varied based on demographics.

Beer and liquor are equal choices after a break up with an equal 15% reaching for each of them, followed by 11% turning to a glass of wine.

  • The top two edge each other out for first place based on demographics. Liquor is the booze of preference for women, Midwesterners, Southerners, Baby Boomers, Matures, Independents, Suburbanites, Rural dwellers, and those with no kids in the house, while each of their counterparts reach for a cold one.

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This Harris Poll was conducted online, in English, within the United States between December 9 and 14, 2015 among 2,191 adults (aged 21 and over), among whom 1,360 drink alcohol at least several times per year. 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.

Product and brand names are trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective owners.

The Harris Poll® #20, March 15, 2016
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. For more information, or to see other recent polls, please visit our new website,

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SOURCE The Harris Poll