Targeting the Market of Atheist Wine Drinkers

Prayer Gallup's annual poll of who drinks and how many drink alcohol was released today. It turns out those who claim to drink alcohol is up, while those that claim to drink wine is slightly down.

What' most interesting is what can be gleaned from the poll on who the most likely drinkers are. It appears that if you want to identify a likely drinker, what you are looking for is someone with the following characteristics:

-A woman

-Between 21 and 54 years of age

-Who makes much larger than average annual income

-And who is an atheist.

It's the athiest/non-church goer characteristic that interests me. I understand that many denominations within the Protestant sector of the Christian religion either have prohibitions on drinker or discourage it. And so this goes a certain way toward explaining why a characteristic of a likely drinker is "Atheist" or "non-church goer."

However, what I'm wondering is if there is anything about the condition of being a non-believer that would make one more likely to drink? Does the uncertainty about end-of-life promote an inclination to ingest mind altering substances? Or is it merely a matter of having fewer prohibitions on how one lives their life that comes with a lack of sectarian influence that makes one more likely to drink?

Personally, I count myself an agnostic, always being open to the possibility that a Creator might take a particular interest in me and disclose their existence. So far I don't rate quite that high. Also, I'm willing to give the potential Creator the benefit of the doubt: I'm aware that were there a Creator, they likely have lot more pressing issues than Tom Wark's understanding of reality. On the other hand, it strikes me that were there a being capable of creating all things, informing me of their existence in a way that would be conclusive on the issue God/Gods/Creators shouldn't be that tough a thing to do.

Of course I've always wondered how faith-based tee-totaling works. I've wondered what justification a Creator might have for prohibiting the consumption of the fermented results of Their creation. To take but one faith, Christianity, it's pretty clear that what the revealed word of the Abrahamic God says is not so much "DON'T DRINK ALCOHOL", but rather that intoxication is the sin. This implies that the Christian Creator prefers his followers to always possess a nimble mind. Not a bad recommendation.

On the other hand, the same creator appears to appreciate the numbing effect alcohol can have, particularly when the drinker is in failing health or distraught:

Give strong drink to the one who is perishing,
and wine to those in bitter distress;

let them drink and forget their poverty

and remember their misery no more.

Proverbs 31:6,7

In any case, one wonders how marketers of wine can successfully pick out and target the Atheist Market, the market of the Dying, or those experiencing intense suffering and distress.


13 Responses

  1. Benito - August 2, 2010

    The explosion of small, independent religious sects in early America led to a lot of strange rule sets. Without a Pope and a strict hierarchy, or a monarch/state religion, you generally ended up with a few guys sitting around and deciding, “How will we distinguish ourselves from the other hundreds of sects?” So you end up with some Baptists that forbade drinking and dancing, and then groups like Shakers that did lots of dancing (but prohibited sex or having children, which is why there are only 3 of them left today). Sometimes it was because a religious leader got hung up on one, very specific passage and decided to base the entire identity on something out of context (see: snake handlers).
    I think one of the most unique examples of “forming a specific identity based on a very narrow rule” was from an NPR report years ago. A polygamist sect had a schism and split over this disagreement: they all knew God commanded them to have multiple wives, but half of them felt God commanded them to sleep with multiple wives in the same bed, while others heard the exact opposite commandment.
    I know plenty of religious teetotalers, and they all have different reasons for it. Some were taught that every instance of the word “wine” in the Bible really means “grape juice”. Some see it as, “Well, if I can resist this small temptation it will be good practice for resisting the bigger temptations.” For others it’s a matter of potential consequences, and for others still it’s a public demonstration of faith.

  2. Jon W - August 2, 2010

    I think these polls distill the information down too far and oversimplify it. Many of the people interviewed probably cross boundaries in different categories. More and more as I watch marketing campaigns these days, I look for the hook or spin. I long for the days when people made a good product and marketed it honestly. I’m an agnostic and would never buy a product marketed to agnostics. But then I may be in the minority in that I pay attention to marketing to see who they’re trying to sell to.

  3. Samantha Dugan - August 2, 2010

    I can see the, “Smile Vodka loves you” bumper stickers now….

  4. Thomas Pellechia - August 3, 2010

    “uncertainty about end-of-life…”
    I thought by now it would be pretty certain: we all die.
    Hence, drink and be merry, for tomorrow, etc., etc., etc.

  5. 1WineDude - August 3, 2010

    Jon W is right on the money – the category essentially includes Agnostics, Atheists, and anyone who isn’t Protestant / Catholic / Non-Catholic Religious.
    In other words, the categories are a bit vague and caution should be used in how they are interpreted. I.e., I’m willing to bet there are a big number of people in those categories who do NOT consider themselves Agnostic OR Atheist…

  6. 1WineDude - August 3, 2010

    Another reason not to get too worked up over these numbers:
    “Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted July 8-11, with a random sample of 1,020 adults, aged 18 and older, living in the continental U.S., selected using random-digit-dial sampling, according to Gallup.”
    Read more: Drinking rate climbs to highest in 25 years – Dayton Business Journal
    1020 people, vs. the U.S. adult population of roughly 228 million. That’s a TINY percentage and might not be totally statistically representative.

  7. Stephen George - August 3, 2010

    Fair enough, 1WineDude. But most national surveys of this kind — at least most of those conducted by Gallup, which is probably the most respected survey group in the nation — use a sample size of just over 1,000 people precisely because that’s the number you need in order to get results that are statistically reliable within +/- 4%. So according to the math by which statistics works (which I’m not an expert in), a survey of 1000 randomly selected people is representative, but only with 4% of any given result.
    For more detail:‘ve-never-been-called-how-poll-represent-me.aspx

  8. 1WineDude - August 3, 2010

    Hey Stephen – you’re right, however Gallup’s decision is mostly economic; the reliability could be increased by 2% either way if the sample pool was doubled, but this would increase the cost of the survey by 100% for them so they elect not to do it and instead tell us that the increased accuracy is minimal ( ).
    I’m not sure all statisticians would agree that the increased accuracy would be “minimal” however. The results are no doubt statistically *reliable*, but a higher sample pool would indeed make them more accurately representative, especially when one considers the complexity of the U.S. population.

  9. fredric koeppel - August 4, 2010

    what about Catholics and Episcopalians? traditionally, those religions have nothing against drinking alcoholic beverages; in fact, they sort of insist on it.

  10. Wine-Know - August 4, 2010

    Well, I fit squarely into the demographic profile (except the income part–that’s in my past and in my future), and I am a wine drinker. Now if I could only get the servers in this country to not pass me over or short me when pouring at wine dinners!

  11. Mark Storer - August 6, 2010

    As a wine and food writer and an active Christian in the Lutheran church, I too find the poll results a bit misleading. I did indeed know a few atheists in the wine business, but it was by no means a prerequisite. On the other hand, I’ve prayed over many a bottle of wine and shared wine with my church friends as often as anybody else in my life. Anecdotal, yes–but still…

  12. Jenny - August 7, 2010

    I did not know I had to be an athiest to love wine. It is nice that the polls tell me so. Also in this age I can’t believe people are still doing phone polls.

  13. Joe - August 9, 2010

    The numbers may be skewed by the fact that many non-Christian religions (in fact, three of the largest: Islam, Hindu, and Buddhism) don’t seem to cotton to alcohol consumption.
    Funny that an industry (at least in the States) started by missionaries has become the vice of the non-believer 🙂

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