I originally wrote this post in September of 2012 but shelved it for some reason. But this same company has recently redone this same kind of polling/marketing survey with wine and spirits and since I have very similar commentary about that chart, I thought I’d go ahead and do a two day feature. Enjoy.
I like this chart (from here)*. At first I read it as being a bit of flippant funnery and I love when my two loves, the drinks industry and politics collide. Normally they collide in the form of very boring conversations about excise taxes or vague conversations about negative social externalities. But you have to love campaign season for finding ways to talk politics to the “man on the street.”
Before I mention specific things about the chart, I will confess to a small bit of confusion about it. I’m not sure what value is gained by using “voter turnout” as the y-axis. I suppose as a marketing tool it’s nice for Corona to know that if they accidentally say something too Republicanny, it probably won’t matter much since they have the lowest voter turnout of all the beer drinkers. I’m also curious what level of confidence the pollsters have on beers that show up south of 100. After all, the general election is really just a great big poll and one might assume that people who don’t like to vote, might also not be particularly fond of answering marketeers questions either.
So here are some notable things about the chart.
We don’t learn anything about Bud Light drinkers.
I know that seems to directly contradict the existence of this chart, but hear me out. The clue is Bud Light’s position straddling the y-axis. In this age of growing partisanship it would be weird if the vast majority of beer drinkers (Bud Light is the most popular domestic beer) were also moderates. Rather this appears to be an artifact of how the marketers measured each beers score (Republican Index minus Democratic Index) In other words if there were only two people in the poll, both Bud Light drinkers, but one was a Democratic scoring -45 and the other was a Republican scoring +50, then what we would get is a much smaller bubble sitting pretty much right where the Bud Light bubble is currently sitting. It would show that “Bud Light drinkers” are moderate even though both polled drinkers were really hardcore partisans. One would expect that the larger the pool of brand identifying drinkers became, the more they would mirror the voting population at large. So Bud Light’s moderate position seems to unmask the truth here which is that there isn’t really a relationship. Or, without extrapolating too far, maybe there is not relationship to Bud Light and voting behavior…it’s just too popular a beer.
Dos Equis’ leftward skew.
Dos Equis is a pretty popular import, available at almost all Mexican restaurants, most package liquor stores, supermarkets and drug stores. It’s also gotten a lot of good publicity from the Most Interesting Man in the World campaign–including being the source of a relatively long-running internet meme. So, like Bud Light, one might suppose it would hew closer to the center. So this leftward skew might actually mean something. It could be the result of the recent flap over Jonathan “The Most Interesting Man in the World” Goldsmith’s fundraiser for Obama and subsequent shedding of Republican voters. But Corona is way to the left too so maybe there’s something there. The natural inclination is to think that Latino voters largely go Democratic (about 60/30). But I’m not sure that the largest part of the Corona-buying public are Latinos. Unfortunately Dos Equis, Corona and Corona Light are the only three Mexican beers on the list so any one of them might be an outlier. I would like to see Tecate on the list. Tecate is a pretty popular beer among Latinos but not the average estadounidense. It would make a better gauge of whether there is a Latin Beer Drinker Effect at work here.
Coors Drinkers Are Republican.
I know I just said that there isn’t really a correlation here and for the most part I think that’s true. Coors Light is a pretty popular beer. As a matter of fact, here are the Top 20 Selling Beers in the US market for 2011
- Bud Light
- Coors Light
- Miller Lite
- Natural Light
- (Corona Extra)
- Busch Light
- Michelob Ultra Light
- Miller High Life
- Keystone Light
- (Natural Ice)
- (Modelo Especial)
- (Bud Light Lime)
- (Ice House)
- (Bud Ice)
- (Pabst Blue Ribbon)
- (Yuenling Traditional Lager)
Now the difference between Bud Light and Budweiser is pretty stark. Bud Light sold about $5 billion US in 2011; Budweiser a little over $2 billion. Meanwhile the difference between 2 and 3 is practically negligible Budweiser a little over $2 billion, Coors Light just a little under. My point here is that I’m not 100% sure where the cut off is where popularity would show up as the bubble sitting on the y-axis, but my guess is that interpretation should work for at least the top 5. We see #11 and #12 sitting right on the y-axis so maybe it goes down that far. So popular beers that don’t sit on the y-axis might be showing us places where there really is a relationship between drink choice and voting behavior.
Pete Coors has run for Senate. His father and grandfather were famously anti-union. That these are well-known facts about the US’s third most popular beer might have caused Democratic beer drinkers to seek out other options. After all, it’s not as if other American Light Lager are hard to find. We do know that celebrity endorsements cause a partisan drop in popularity. That could be what we’re seeing with Coors’ rightward skew. Also notice that Coors’ Blue Moon also skews rightward.
Of course, this doesn’t explain Miller Lite’s rightward skew. So maybe my explanation above is a little tail wagging the dog. I have a good story for Coors’ rightward skew, so I’m seeing it in the chart. It could be that only Bud Light is a popular enough beer that its chart placement is misleading.
Imports are Everywhere.
Imports show up in every quadrant. There are Mexican beers in both the lower right and lower left (Mexican beer drinkers are low turnout voters?) Stella Artois (top left) Amstel Light (top right). Every quadrant has at least one import. However, the lower right (low turnout Republicans) only has Corona Light. The International Relationist in me wants to see this as a sign of our globalizing culture.
Sam Adams is still Tea Partying
It is odd that Taxachussetts has created a beer that is most popular among high turnout Republicans. Perhaps this is a residual effect of the Tea Party boom from a couple years back? I never saw the beer being hoisted up by Tea Party protesters, but how a “craft” beer from one of the most liberal states skews so far to the right is pretty mysterious. Unless….
I have already noted that craft brewers and craft beer drinkers seem to skew in the conservative/libertarian direction. Some of that, no doubt is that many of them are small businessmen who work in the most regulated (legal) industry in the country. Excise taxes and an increased exposure to bureaucracy can push someone into “Small Government at Any Cost” camp, I assume. I can think of handful of other reasons why that might be true. So it could be the case that were more craft beers charted they might tend toward the upper-right. Some no doubt wouldn’t. New Belgian, a woman-run, uber-green, pro-bicycle brewery will likely skew left. Who knows?
At any rate, not totally useless. It certainly leaves the social scientist in me with a lot of questions…a lot more questions than I started with. And that’s a good thing.
*When I wrote this post a year ago, this link went to an article with the chart published above. That chart is still available on the Internet Web but no longer at this link. Apologies.