Who Drinks More: Liberals or Conservatives?

Liberals, according to a new paper in the Journal of Wine Economics by Pavel A. Yakovlev and Walter P. Guessford of Duquesne University. The paper, “Alcohol Consumption and Political Ideology: What’s Party Got to Do with It?,” looks at alcohol consumption and voting patterns from 1952 to 2010 and finds that as states become more liberal politically, beer and spirit consumption increases, while wine consumption goes down. The abstract:

Recent research in psychology and sociology has established a connection between political beliefs and unhealthy behaviors such as excessive alcohol, tobacco, and illegal drug consumption. In this study, we estimate the relationship between political ideology and the demand for beer, wine, and spirits using a longitudinal panel of fifty U.S. states from 1952 to 2010. Controlling for various socioeconomic factors and unobserved heterogeneity, we find that when a state becomes more liberal politically, its consumption of beer and spirits rises, while its consumption of wine may fall. Our findings suggest that political beliefs are correlated with the demand for alcohol.

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  1. Nosybear says:

    The key word in all of this is “correlation.” Perhaps it isn’t the Liberals drinking more, but the displaced Conservatives. Put another way, this study effectively told us that liberal voting patterns and drinking are moving in the same direction. Much like sunspots and the stock market.

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  2. Matt says:

    They come up with some pretty curious results–the more elderly people in the population, the more beer (and less wine and spirits) that is consumed. Likewise, the more men there are, the less beer (and wine and spirits) that is consumed.

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  3. Erik says:

    Has the consideration been made that Red States tend to be lower income states vs. Blue States? Spirits and Alcohol is a luxury good, and it makes sense that an income increase would also lead to higher consumption levels. Just wondering if it could be a causation vs. correlation fallacy.

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    • Enter your name... says:

      I suspect that “various socioeconomic factors” includes income, but even if it doesn’t, that sounds backwards: poor states buy more expensive wine, but less cheap beer? Beer consumption appears to be highest among people whose income is a bit below the national median, not among rich people.

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      • James says:

        Wine can be fairly inexpensive if you buy the sorts that come in a box or jug, and even cheaper if your tipple of choice is a bottle of Thunderbird in a brown paper sack. I’ve never worked out the cost per alcohol content, but I suspect there’s a reason we have winos rather than ‘beeros’.

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  4. Jason says:

    I don’t buy it, blue states have some of the highest per-capita consumption of wine. Red states have some of the lowest for wine and much higher for beer and spirits. I work in the beverage alcohol industry, there are decades of consumption data to verify this.

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    • Pavel Yakovlev says:

      Dear readers, to answer some of your questions…
      Yes we are controlling for income, unemployment, alcohol prices, and many other factors that should affect the demand for each type of alcohol.
      Some of the results, especially for demographic groups and the positive although weak conservative effect on wine, also surprised me.
      We acknowledge that the results do not establish causality. However, we do attempt to eliminate the common sources of bias by using state and year fixed effects among others.

      One of the biases and common misinterpretations that we do eliminate is the claim by Jason that blue states have high consumption of wine, etc. That might be the case, but it is not just ideology that’s responsible for it, but rather a multitude of other factors. Some care should be taken when interpreting the results. Specifically, our estimates suggest that holding everything else constant, states consume more per capita when they become more liberal over time, not necessarily that liberals drink more than conservatives. In other words, we are suggesting that liberals and conservatives might drink at different levels and for many other reasons, but some might start to drink more as they become more liberal.

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      • nobody.really says:

        [H]olding everything else constant, states consume more per capita when they become more liberal over time, not necessarily that liberals drink more than conservatives. In other words, we are suggesting that liberals and conservatives might drink at different levels and for many other reasons, but some might start to drink more as they become more liberal.

        Oh, just come right out at say it in plain English: THE RISE OF OBAMA IS DRIVING EVERYONE TO DRINK.

        There. That wasn’t so hard, was it?

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      • nobody.really says:

        More seriously, here’s a hypothesis:

        Liberalism correlates with lower social anxiety; conversely, when we feel anxious, we conserve more.

        So as circumstances change to make people less anxious – the economy improves, crime falls, terrorism recedes in people’s memory, etc. – they grow more liberal. And maybe they celebrate more – or, at least, they feel comfortable saving a lower percentage of their income, and have more left for consumption of every kind. In contrast, as people grow more anxious – the economy collapses, crime rises, terrorists strike – people turtle up and conserve more of their resources. Thus, even if we controlled for income we might expect to find disparate levels of consumption between liberals and conservatives.

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    • J1 says:

      The title of the post is a little misleading; the study is about change, not absolute consumption. Also, at least based on the blurb in this post (the link doesn’t work at the moment), it looks like they’re looking at total shipments rather than per capita shipments.

      The red states definitely don’t like wine, but the numbers are about even for beer. For total beer shipments, California is #1 by far, but 44th per capita. North Dakota is #1 per capita, but five of the top ten in per capita beer consumption voted for Obama in 2012, so it’s an even split at that end. At the low end, 4 of the states in the bottom 10 in per capita consumption went for Romney.


      Anecdotally, most of my friends who smoke fall along the left side of the political divide, and even those who don’t fall more into the “socially liberal but otherwise pretty right-wing” (libertarian?) category than pure conservative.

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  5. tom says:

    If you look at their conclusions, you can see where lazy meets sloppy.

    “Our findings are relatively consistent with the recent sociological studies showing
    that people with more socialist views tend to engage in more unhealthy behaviors
    such as excessive drinking (Cockerham, 1999, 2005; Cockerham et al., 2002, 2006;
    Dmitrieva, 2005; Shkolnikov and Meslé, 1996). This sociological argument is
    similar to the theory of moral hazard in economics, which postulates that people
    may behave irresponsibly when they do not fully bear the cost of their behavior.
    This moral hazard argument might be responsible for some of our findings,
    considering that more liberal states tend to advocate for a stronger role for
    government in health care and social welfare.”

    What, if anything, does “relatively consistent” mean? The moral hazard argument “might be responsible for some”? It strikes me as though these are lots of weasel words to cover a very weak causal argument.

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  6. nequelquepart says:

    Only one thing is for certain: All those who are paying 40% higher premiums exponentially higher deductibles, or can’t afford health insurance (thanks to ObamaCare) will want consume a great deal more alcohol. So, thanks, Blue States.

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  7. Steve Cebalt says:

    I’m from Indiana, and I drink Kessler’s (very cheap whiskey) when I feel conservative, and Wild Turkey 101 when I’m feelin’ Liberal.

    And I’ll buy Jameson if I’m already drunk! Guess that makes me a swing voter.

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  8. Eric M. Jones says:

    Put me in the camp of the doubters on this. Reality has a distinctly liberal slant.

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