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The Great Divide: McDonald's Vs. Starbucks

McDonald’s captured America’s stomach long ago. Turns out it has won over the nation’s heart as well. Recently, the Pew Research Center asked a national sample of adults where they’d rather live, in a place with more McDonald’s or more Starbucks. Big Mac comes out ahead, 43% to 35% overall. (The rest had no opinion or didn’t answer.)

McDonald’s also is tops in almost every demographic group. Among the few subsets that favor Starbucks: 18- to 29-year-olds, college grads, people with annual incomes of $75,000 or more a year, the nonreligious, Westerners, and liberals.

The results reflect the economic times, say Pew researchers. Item for item, McDonald’s is cheaper, which is why the burger chain and its $1 menu are clobbering Starbucks and its $4 macchiatos in the marketplace, too.

But the responses also carry a warning for McDonald’s as it tries to steal business from Starbucks with its own premium coffees, says David Palmer, a restaurant industry analyst with UBS Securities. The Starbucks customer is fundamentally different. Even as more “latte liberals” trade down, McDonald’s won’t easily win them all.

For a chart from Pew Research Center detailing the differences, click here.

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