Summer Vacation Perennial: The Mountains or the Beach?

By Gary Langer

Jun 20, 2012 6:00am

Grab your flip-flops and break out the blanket: The beach beats the mountains in their perennial summertime battle as the country’s more popular vacation destination. But it’s a close call, with suntan-seeking women closing the deal for the shore.

With the summer solstice upon us, 72 percent of Americans in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll express a favorable opinion of going to the beach for summer vacation; a bit fewer, 66 percent, like the idea of a trip to the mountains. The beach opens up a 10-point advantage in “strong” popularity.

See PDF with full results, chart and table here.

The difference is among women: They’re 11 percentage points more apt to like the idea of a beach vacation than a sojourn in the hills, and a wide 19 points more likely to “strongly” favor the beach than the mountains. Equal numbers of men would be happy with either option.

Having kids comes into it, too: Parents with children younger than 18 at home look especially positively on the idea of a beach vacation, 83 percent, 15 points higher than among adults without kids at home. It’s easier to set junior to work on a sand castle than to drag him off on a hike.

Age also matters, with positive responses to a beach break peaking at 80 percent among women younger than age 50, while bottoming out at 58 percent among senior citizens overall. Differences among these groups on a mountain holiday are far more muted.

While both options are popular among majorities of the public, there’s not complete overlap. Fifty percent in this poll, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates, express favorable opinions of beach and mountain vacations alike.

There are regional preferences: The beach beats the mountains by a 17-point margin in the Northeast and by 10 points in the South, while the two are rated equally in the Midwest. In the West, the mountains do better than in any other region, and actually outpoint the coast, 76 percent vs. 70 percent. Take that, Beach Boys.

Among other groups, whites are far more enamored of mountain vacations (75 percent) than are nonwhites (49 percent), with no such difference on the beach alternative. And favorable views of both options tail off among people with lower- and lower-middle incomes, perhaps too busy making ends meet to think about summer holiday choices.

Finally, in these partisan times, there’s no ducking the political equation: While Democrats and Republicans see eye-to-eye on a beach vacation (if little else), positive views of this option slip by 10 points among independents. On the other hand, Republicans and independents respond equally favorably to a mountain holiday, Democrats less so.

METHODOLOGY – This ABC News/Washington Post poll was conducted by landline and cell phone June 13-17, 2012, among a random national sample of 1,022 adults. Results have a margin of sampling error of 3.5 points. The survey was produced for ABC News by Langer Research Associates of New York, N.Y., with sampling, data collection and tabulation by SSRS/Social Science Research Solutions of Media, Pa.

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