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Study: People tweet more about church than beer
July 9th, 2012
02:15 PM ET

Study: People tweet more about church than beer

By Dan Merica, CNN

(CNN) – In an effort to look at cultural differences across the United States, a data analysis company selected two words that it felt exemplified an American cultural divide and analyzed their usage on Twitter.

The words: “beer” and “church.”

And according to the study by Floatingsheep.org, Americans tweet more about church than beer, and there is a distinct regional divide between the tweets.

Church tweets were most common in the Southeast United States, while tweets about beer were most prevalent in the Northeast.

“We found out that there is a geography to what people tweet about, and there are some geographic differences to Twitter,” said Dr. Matthew Zook, a geography professor at the University of Kentucky and co-founder of Floating Sheep. “You have these offline cultural differences that are being replicated in information space like Twitter.”

The group went through roughly 10 million geotagged tweets from June 22 to June 29 and found that 17,686 tweets were sent with the word “church,” while 14,405 tweets were sent containing the word “beer.”

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Zook and his group selected the words because they believed religion and drinking have rich differences.

“We have been doing this for a while, and we have a set of favorite words that really capture regional differences,” Zook said.

According to the report, which was first reported by Britain's Guardian newspaper, San Francisco was the most beer-focused city in the country, while Dallas was the most focused on church.

“San Francisco has the largest margin in favor of ‘beer’ tweets (191 compared to 46 for ‘church’) with Boston (Suffolk County) running a close second,” the report says. “In contrast, Dallas, Texas wins the FloatingSheep award for most geotagged tweets about ‘church’ with 178 compared to only 83 about ‘beer.’ ”

The study also found that “counties with high numbers of church tweets are surrounded by counties with similar patterns and ... counties with many beer tweets are surrounded by like-tweeting counties.”

The social networking site Twitter allows users to note or highlight their locations with a service called geotagging, which utilizes the GPS feature on mobile phones or computers to precisely determine the location. Though the report cautions that geotagged tweets are rare on Twitter – they account for only 1% to 3% of tweets – that small percentage yields a large number of tweets to use, the analysts say.

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The results of the "church or beer "study validate past studies by Floatingsheep.org, the analysts say.

In 2010, the group found that there is a larger than normal concentration of bars in the Northeast United States.

And in 2009, a study titled “The Virtual ‘Bible Belt’” found a larger than normal concentration of churches in the American South and Midwest, especially compared with the Northeast United States.

- Dan Merica

Filed under: Belief • Church

soundoff (313 Responses)
  1. atomD21

    This is why churches need to drop the coffee and start serving beer... beer church tweets! Where do I sign up?

    July 9, 2012 at 3:27 pm |
  2. Honey Badger Dont Care

    A herd of buffalo can move only as fast as the slowest buffalo. When the herd is hunted, it is the slowest and the weakest ones at the back that are kiIIed first. This natural selection is good for the herd as a whole, because the general speed and health of the whole group keeps improving by the regular culling of the weakest members.

    In much the same way, the human brain can only operate as fast as the slowest brain cells. Excessive intake of alcohol, we all know, kiIIs brain cells, but naturally it attacks the slowest and weakest brain cells first.

    In this way, regular consumption of beer eliminates the weaker brain cells, making the brain a faster and more efficient machine. That's why you always feel smarter after a few beers.

    July 9, 2012 at 3:26 pm |
    • sam

      Sounds about right.

      July 9, 2012 at 3:32 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Ahahhaha! I request permission to borrow this.

      July 9, 2012 at 4:05 pm |
    • Honey Badger Dont Care

      Why not? I did. This is from an episode of Cheers where Cliff Claivin is giving one of his theories.

      July 9, 2012 at 4:25 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Thanks-I didn't remember that.

      July 9, 2012 at 4:27 pm |
    • Fred Evil

      Similar effect with religion.

      July 10, 2012 at 12:13 pm |
  3. Joshua

    I am not surprised by this. But it should be noted Catholics typically refer to "church" as "mass" and therefore are probably undercounted. Catholics make up a large part of the population in the Northeast, especially Ohio, Penn, NJ, NY, and Mass.

    July 9, 2012 at 3:25 pm |
    • derp

      I live in the northeast. I know a lot more beer drinkers than catholics.

      July 9, 2012 at 5:03 pm |
  4. Joe Vinist

    Yesterday scientists revealed that beer contains small traces of female hormones. To prove their theory, the scientists fed 100 men 12 pints of beer and observed that 100% of them gained weight, talked excessively without making sense, became emotional, and couldn't drive. No further testing is planned.

    July 9, 2012 at 3:22 pm |
    • Petercha

      lol!

      July 9, 2012 at 4:06 pm |
  5. Rynomite

    I think all believers and non-believers can agree on one important fact:

    Twitter is dumb.

    July 9, 2012 at 3:20 pm |
  6. Auntie

    Beer? What about wine?

    July 9, 2012 at 3:18 pm |
  7. sayer

    Any significance to blue=much more beer and red=much more church and blue=Democrat and red=Republican?

    July 9, 2012 at 3:12 pm |
  8. Marta

    What are the parameters of the study? In Utah, I am guessing a lot more people would use the term "Ward" than "Church" was that factored in at all? Did they, in any way, look at words like "Coors," "Bud Light" or "Sam Adams" for beer? Did they eliminate posts with the word "Street" or "St" following Church (as a lot of people pointed out, there are potentially millions of "Church Streets" but very few "Beer Streets"). Also, choosing your own buzz words is not, in any way, a valid way of validating your own studies. Doubtful that "Floating Sheep" has this right.

    July 9, 2012 at 3:08 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      Please don't confuse a twitter analysis with a serious poll.

      July 9, 2012 at 3:45 pm |
  9. BrewChief.com

    Long live the beer tweet! @BrewChief

    July 9, 2012 at 3:02 pm |
  10. Ten Reasons Why Beer Is Better Than Religion

    1. Beer actually exists!

    2. With beer, nobody makes you cut off parts of your genitals.

    3. Unlike religion, people get nicer and more tolerant on beer.

    4. Nobody on beer shows up at your door wearing magic panties and interrupts your dinner in an attempt to convert you.

    5. Nobody on beer has started wars or tortured others or flown airliners into buildings for believing in another beer.

    6. People are always willing to try out someone else's beer.

    7. If you like beer, you don't have to hate gays or want women to be inferior.

    8. Beer doesn't have a lot of weird rules that don't fit the modern world at all.

    9. Lovers of beer are not trying to turn America into a beerocracy, nor do they claim America is a beer nation.

    10. Beer people never claim that you are going to burn in hell for the rest of eternity because you did not accept their beer as your savior.

    And some things beer people share with religious people:

    1. Both have a strange tendency to wear silly hats

    2. Too much of both can result in some very repulsive people

    3. Both can make you believe some weird things . . . but with beer, you get over it when it wears off.

    July 9, 2012 at 3:01 pm |
    • Peace2All

      @Ten Reasons Why Beer Is Better Than Religion

      Nice... !

      Peace...

      July 9, 2012 at 3:05 pm |
    • miketofdal

      Outstanding!

      July 9, 2012 at 3:05 pm |
    • J.W

      Religion exists

      July 9, 2012 at 3:07 pm |
    • J.W

      There are definitely people who are not nicer on beer.

      July 9, 2012 at 3:08 pm |
    • Unknown

      Beer leads to deaths of so many people every year.

      atheists are so desperate...

      July 9, 2012 at 3:16 pm |
    • Unknown

      Well I should any type of alcohol can lead to death.

      weak argument.

      July 9, 2012 at 3:17 pm |
    • Who invited me?

      unknown
      I think you mean bears....
      You can't even get it right when you aren't you.

      July 9, 2012 at 3:18 pm |
    • Okey Dokey

      Apparently atheists have much better senses of humor than religious people. I have yet to see a religious person write a funny post, and they sure don't seem to understand them or are able to take a joke.

      Did you know that there are many, many references in the Bible to God being angry, but the only reference to him laughing is when he is slaughtering opponents in Revelation?

      July 9, 2012 at 3:21 pm |
    • Unknown

      awww troll can't accept the truth.

      July 9, 2012 at 3:23 pm |
    • sam

      We would all be happier if Unknown was less known.

      July 9, 2012 at 3:36 pm |
    • Ten Reasons Why Beer Is Better Than Religion

      Actually, I was just trying to bring a smile to people here, but I have to thank the religious people for being pissed-off about it. A nice little fringe benefit.

      July 9, 2012 at 3:39 pm |
    • J.W

      I write funny posts all the time. If you dont think I am funny you must have a bad sense of humor

      July 9, 2012 at 3:54 pm |
    • Johnny Blammo

      J.W., I've seen many a post by you, and not a one showed even the slightest hint of humor. You might think you are being funny, but that has as much reality as your belief in an invisible magic superfriend in the sky.

      July 9, 2012 at 4:00 pm |
    • derp

      "3. Unlike religion, people get nicer and more tolerant on beer"

      You obviously don't live in Philly.

      July 9, 2012 at 5:05 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Dearly beloved, touch not yourselves, but [rather] give your body to another: for it is written, oragasim is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. .

      Romans 12:19

      July 9, 2012 at 5:07 pm |
  11. Amanda

    Guardian article link: http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/datablog/2012/jul/04/us-fourth-july-twitter-beer-church

    July 9, 2012 at 3:01 pm |
  12. sybaris

    Lincoln should have let the south secede. The perpetuation of willful ignorance in that region is a blight on this country.

    July 9, 2012 at 2:57 pm |
    • Mike

      whoa whoa whoa. we northerners are doing our best down here to supplant the Old South. We can't do it by ourselves, though– these people breed like crazy.

      What I'm saying, is, pack your bags. There's a nice house in my neighborhood that's going to go for a song.

      (Savannah, GA)

      July 9, 2012 at 3:04 pm |
    • Petercha

      Hate much, sybaris?

      July 9, 2012 at 4:09 pm |
    • Fred Evil

      Not hate Petercha, it's pity. Massive, massive pity.

      July 10, 2012 at 12:15 pm |
  13. Ally

    I think it's funny...and interesting, that there isn't a single county that tweets more about church in Nevada.

    July 9, 2012 at 2:57 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      Nevada is the 5th beer consumer per capita in the US.

      (One assumes that Vegas and Reno have some impact on this data.)

      July 9, 2012 at 2:59 pm |
  14. I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

    This is misleading. They might as well have compared tweets on "Justin Bieber" to "church".

    What the data shows is that the southern states tweet more about "church" than the rest of the country. OMG! What a conclusion!

    The data is inconsistent with actual data for beer consumption. It shows New York as a "beet tweeting" state, but NY is 49th in beer consumption per capita. Meanwhile it shows Mississippi as a "church tweeting" state when Mississippi is 12th in beer consumption.

    What if they had compared tweets on "NASCAR" or "Football" to "church"? Would those southern states still show up the same way for "church".

    July 9, 2012 at 2:55 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      For data on beer consumption see:

      http://www.beerinst_tute.org/BeerInst_tute/files/ccLibraryFiles/Filename/000000001270/State%20Per%20Capita%20Consumption%202003%20to%202011.pdf

      You'll have to replace the "_" with "i". (Thanks word filter)

      July 9, 2012 at 2:58 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      I said: "What the data shows is that the southern states tweet more about "church" than the rest of the country. OMG! What a conclusion!"

      My statement is actually wrong. More accurately, the data shows that for counties in southern states they tweet about church more than beer, but it clearly correlates with southern religiousity.

      July 9, 2012 at 3:04 pm |
  15. Lucifer's Evil Twin™

    This is why I refuse to engage in twitter... it is hastening the advent of the zombie apocalypse...

    July 9, 2012 at 2:52 pm |
  16. Rabbit One

    really

    July 9, 2012 at 2:45 pm |
  17. sam

    This is possibly the dumbest thing I've ever seen.

    Are they sure the tweets aren't actually just telling someone to stop and get Church's chicken on the way home?

    July 9, 2012 at 2:42 pm |
    • Judaism comes from the Sumerian Religion

      lol

      July 9, 2012 at 2:43 pm |
    • What IF

      sam, 🙂

      Yeah, and there are Church Streets in oodles of cities, with "Church St." cafes, bar and grilles, malls and all sorts of stuff.

      July 9, 2012 at 2:56 pm |
  18. Judaism comes from the Sumerian Religion

    And the South tends to be more ignorant and slow. No surprise

    July 9, 2012 at 2:40 pm |
    • Guest

      If so, you must be from deep in Dixie since you made such an ignorant comment.

      July 9, 2012 at 2:55 pm |
    • Mike

      So you've never been to Savannah, Charleston, Asheville, New Orleans, St. Petersburg, Atlanta...

      July 9, 2012 at 3:08 pm |
    • Petercha

      Hate much, Judaism?

      July 9, 2012 at 4:09 pm |
    • Judaism comes from the Sumerian Religion

      No hate....just low tolerance for stupid

      July 9, 2012 at 4:53 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Dearly beloved, touch not yourselves, but [rather] give your body to another: for it is written, oragasim is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.

      Romans 12:19

      July 9, 2012 at 5:05 pm |
  19. WASP

    according to the diagram it looks like more people tweet about beer than about church.
    blue was beer, red was church................so maybe i'm reading the map and understanding it's key incorrectly.

    July 9, 2012 at 2:37 pm |
    • sybaris

      You have to factor in population density. I don't think it is a true visual representation of #'s as it is of location.

      July 9, 2012 at 2:54 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      WASP, you are in fact reading it wrong. It only compares per county, whether there are more "beer" tweets or "church" tweets. There might be one or one thousand. This is not considered in the data representation.

      July 9, 2012 at 3:01 pm |
  20. derp

    Happy to say that I live in the "Beer Belt".

    July 9, 2012 at 2:20 pm |
    • Peace2All

      @derp

      LOL ! 😀

      Peace...

      July 9, 2012 at 2:21 pm |
    • burp

      Me too!

      July 9, 2012 at 4:51 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.