Google searches for the “Corona beer virus” have surged as people confuse the Mexican pale lager with the deadly outbreak that’s killed 146 in China.

Google searches for the “Corona beer virus” have surged as people confuse the Mexican pale lager with the deadly outbreak that’s killed 146 in China.

Corona Beer Sales Up 5% Despite Unfounded Coronavirus Fears

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Americans not drinking Corona beer because of the coronavirus has certainly made headlines recently. The topic has been discussed on talk-shows collectively showing the lack of American intellect. Constellation Brands, the company that markets Corona beer in the U.S., has fired back — pointing out that Corona beer sales actually rose 5% over a four-week period ending February 16th.

Corona Extra, one of the beers from Constellation Brands

Corona Extra, one of the beers from Constellation Brands

So it would seem that Americans aren’t as dumb as social media posts would made us seem. However, one still must wonder that even if 38% of Americans say they wouldn’t buy Corona beer “under any circumstances,” how are sales up 5% in the U.S.?

5W Public Relations, the company that conducted the survey didn’t provide the actual survey questions. Which leads one to wonder if the entire episode was a manifestation of the old saw “there are lies, damn lies, and statistics.”

The original news release from February 27th says 5W conducted phone surveys with 737 American beer drinkers and that survey made three claims.

First, it stated that “38% of Americans wouldn’t buy Corona under any circumstances now.” Next, “Among those who said they usually drink Corona, only 4% said they would stop drinking Corona, but 14% said they wouldn’t order Corona in a public venue.” Finally, “16% of beer-drinking Americans were confused about whether Corona beer is related to the coronavirus.”

In one spin of the survey results, Corona beer retained 96% of its customers. And there’s also this interpretation: non-Corona drinkers are still non-Corona drinkers.

Still, about 120 people surveyed expressed confusion about connections between coronavirus and Corona beer. Confused about what? What question were they asked, and what answers were provided? Then there is the sticky mathematical issue of adjusting for the bias inherent in people taking the phone survey. Response rates for phone surveys have plummeted over recent years, according to the Pew Research Center. Pew was looking at politics, but the problem of bias remains for any survey drawing broad conclusions when response rates are low.

In the end, of course, there is no connection between the beer and the virus. A coronavirus is named for the “crown like spikes” on its surface, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Common cold viruses are coronaviruses. The virus causing so much turmoil today is “novel COVID-19.”

Investors, it seems, never bought into the survey. Constellation Brands (STZ) stock is down about 6% year to date—putting it ahead of the Dow Jones Industrial Average and S&P 500, both of which are down about 10% over the same span.

There is nothing surprising about the relative moves of any of the stocks, indexes or ETF given the recent market volatility. Although, even that conclusion, based on numbers, is open to interpretation.

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