May 17, 2005 -- From eggs Benedict to liver and grits, breakfast in America is many things to many people. But there are a few common touchstones, an ABC News poll finds, including cold cereal and cold pizza.
Perhaps most surprising is that nearly four in 10 adults disregard their mothers' injunctions about the most important meal of the day and usually skip breakfast entirely. Among those who do partake of the morning meal, moreover, a third have to wolf it down -- rising to half of those under 45, who're more apt be juggling jobs and kids.
This poll supports "Guess Who's Coming to Breakfast," a weeklong series on ABC's "Good Morning America" this week.
Cold cereal, it finds, tops the list of most common breakfast foods, cited by 31 percent of those who eat breakfast. About two in 10 usually eat eggs (with or without bacon or ham) and just over one in 10 usually have a bagel, toast, muffins or pastry.
Thirty-nine percent of Americans have, at some point, eaten cold pizza for breakfast, a phenomenon the singer Christine Lavin documented back in 1986:
"I want cold pizza for breakfast
And a pinch 'o cold spaghetti will do
But there's nothin' in the world that I like better than
Eatin' cold pizza with you."
Cold pizza even gets one mention as an "all-time favorite" breakfast (as does spaghetti, for that matter). Other mentions on this open-ended list range from the inspired to the downright bizarre. Among them:
Eating breakfast is most common among older Americans, likely because they're more apt to have the time. Eighty-three percent of seniors usually eat breakfast, as do 71 percent of people age 55 to 64. But among those younger than 55 that falls off to just 54 percent.
Similarly, younger adults are more likely to have to rush their breakfast -- as noted, half of people under 45 do; by contrast 95 percent of seniors take their time. People with children at home, focused on getting the kids off to school, also are more likely to have to rush their breakfasts.
Rushing breakfast, naturally, also is much more prevalent among people who work. Forty-nine percent of full-time workers rush; among people who are not working, 85 percent take their time.
In terms of their usual breakfast, women are eight points more likely than men to eat cold cereal (35 percent to 27 percent); men, in turn, are nine points more likely to have bacon and eggs (15 percent to 6 percent). But cold cereal is still the top choice for both sexes.
There are regional differences: Cold cereal is most popular in the Northeast (39 percent) and least popular in the South (25 percent); indeed more Southerners usually eat eggs, bacon and eggs, or ham and eggs (30 percent) than usually eat cold cereal. Also, 11 percent of Northeasterners eat bagels, more than anywhere else.
Older people are more likely than younger to eat hot cereal: Thirteen percent of people age 55 and older do, compared with 4 percent of people under 35.
Eating cold pizza for breakfast seems to be a fairly recent phenomenon: Just 16 percent of seniors have done it, compared with 48 percent of people under 45. It tops out at 45 percent of Westerners and Midwesterners, compared with 38 percent of Southerners and 30 percent of Northeasterners.
And compared with people who don't work, full-time workers are 23 points more likely to have eaten cold pizza for breakfast. Leftovers from the office party, perhaps.
This ABC News poll was conducted by telephone May 11-15 among a random national sample of 1,000 adults. The results have a three-point error margin. Sampling, data collection and tabulation were done by TNS of Horsham, Pa.
You can find more ABC News polls in our Poll Vault.