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Do Americans Prefer McDonald’s or Starbucks?

Over on boss-man John Byrne’s twitter feed, there’s a link to a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center about Starbucks and McDonald’s. When asked, “Just for fun: Would you prefer to live in a place with more McDonald’s or more Starbucks?”, 43% of Americans said McDonalds, vs. 35% for Starbucks (the rest had no preference). The survey goes on to find a correlation between peoples’ restaurant choices and their political orientation — self-described liberals chose Starbucks, 46% to 33%, for instance (no word on whether they actually “sipped lattes” or just got regular coffee). The results were based on the results of a phone survey of 2,260 adults conducted from Oct. 3 through to Oct. 18, 2008.

Cool survey, but I bet folks’ answers differ from their actual behavior. Brand New Day’s David Kiley did his own field research earlier in the year. Coincidentally, an online market research outfit called Mindset Media has a study out today about who actually drinks $4 coffee.

Personally, I’d probably answer McDonald’s, just so I didn’t seem like some mainstream media elitist. But I bet I probably go to both places just as frequently. Further confusing things, I order a sturdy, no-frills drip coffee when I’m at Starbucks, but I order the fey grilled chicken sandwich — no fries please! — at Mickey D’s.

Trendiness plays a role too. I bet if you’d asked this question back in the 90’s, everyone would have lied and said Starbucks. Now they’ll lie and say McDonald’s.

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