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Drinking edges up in US, with beer still favorite

Sixty-seven percent of American adults say they have an alcoholic beverage on occasion, the highest level in 15 years, with beer the preferred drink, followed by wine and liquor, a Gallup poll said Friday.

Drinking was most prevalent in 1976-1978, when 71 percent of Americans said they drank alcohol, and least popular in 1958, when only 55 percent admitted doing so, said Gallup, which began its drinking surveys in 1939.

By age, alcoholic beverages were most favored by 18-54-year-olds (72 percent), followed by the 55 and older crowd (59 percent), Gallup found in its July 8-18 survey of 1,020 adults.

There was also a marked difference in drinking habits by education, with college graduates topping people with a high school degree or less by 79 to 58 percent respectively.

Income also mirrored drinking levels, with 81 percent of people making 75,000+ dollars per year saying they drank, followed in descending order by lower incomes until only 46 percent of those making less than 20,000 dollars said they drank.

And religion also had a bearing with people attending church regularly drinking the least - 61 percent of Protestants, 78 percent of Catholics - compared to 80 percent of non-religious people.

Finally, the Gallup poll found that beer was still the preferred drink of Americans (41 percent), followed by wine (32 percent) and liquor (21 percent).

Men favored beer over wine by 57-17 percent, while women chose wine over beer by 48-27 percent.

Gallup said that nationally, wine edged out beer in 2005 by a 39-36 percent margin.