Say What? Americans Are Just as Prudish About the Legal Drinking Age as 30 Years Ago

New study shows 74 percent are against lowering the drinking age to 18.

A newly released Gallup study confirms that Americans on the whole are still very much a conservative bunch when it comes to alcohol. The majority still reject a federal law that would lower the minimum drinking age to 18.

A whopping 74 percent of the 1,013 adults aged 18 or older who were surveyed said they would oppose such legislation, which is consistent with public opinion thirty years ago when the federal legislation first raised the the minimum drinking age to 21.

The laws were originally introduced in 1984 to curb driving fatalities involving young adults, with research showing a decline in such incidents. Yet, according to Gallup, the reduction was more likely attributable to the lack of uniformity in drinking laws among states during that period. Canada, with a drinking age of 19, also experienced a decline in drunk-driving incidents, Substance reported. Furthermore, the laws did not and still do not curtail binge drinking amongst teens.

Advocates of decreasing the drinking age have argued that lowering the age and teaching teens to drink responsibility would actually be far more effective than prohibition in terms of monitoring and reducing young people's desire to drink alcohol, which has most of its appeal due to its ‘forbidden status.’ Critics of the laws also argue that if 18 year olds are old enough to drive, vote and serve in the military, than they are old enough to drink.

Yet, public opinion does not support such a contention. Surprisingly, there was little variation across demographic groups when looking at sex, education, geography or political ideology. The survey found only 34 percent of liberals appeared to support lowering the drinking age, not even double the 18 percent of conservatives who supported a change. 

What's more, younger adults were no more likely to favor lower the drinking age than older folk. Even those who drink alcohol supported lowering the drinking age only marginally more (29 percent) than those who don’t drink (18 percent) with those who drink on a weekly basis supporting efforts to reduce the minimum by 35 percent.

Today, the United States has the highest legal drinking age in the world along with several other conservative countries including Kazakhstan, Japan and Iceland. More proof that this puritanical society we live in is not disappearing anytime soon.

Jodie Gummow is a senior fellow and staff writer at AlterNet.


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