The Science Is Settled: It’s Soda, Not “Pop,” “Coke,” Or A “Soft Drink”

Soda Pop Coke Map

The Soda v. Pop debate has been ongoing for many years, but as Aaron Blake shows us, it’s clear where most Americans stand:

[The map above] comes from North Carolina State University’s Joshua Katz, who has mapped all kinds of dialectical differences between different areas of the country.

One of the most polarizing questions he asks: What do you call a sweetened carbonated beverage?

Nearly half of the country — 47 percent — refers to it as “soda,” while 23 percent say “pop” and another 19 percent go the proper noun route and say “Coke.”

So, there you have it. The debate is over. It’s soda.

As Blake notes, though, the real weirdos are the ones who call it a “soft drink.” They make up just 7% of the population, but they could be anywhere:

Soft Drink Map

FILED UNDER: Popular Culture, , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. beth says:

    Ha, I just hosted a family celebration including some very Southern relatives I don’t see often. I asked one little boy if he wanted a soda and he made a face and asked “can I have a Coke instead?”.

  2. Jeremy says:

    Yep. It has always been soda and always will be.

  3. Franklin says:

    I’m from Michigan, so “pop” it is. But a better name might be something like “disease in a can”, whether that disease be diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer’s, obesity, or any number of other things.

    That said, I still have one every week.

  4. Pinky says:

    “Coke” isn’t just the preferred term for soda in the South. It’s the preferred soda. I don’t know the numbers on this, but I suspect that RC Cola is #2 in some of the South (this is starting to sound like the religions thread). Southerners have the honorable and decent tradition of not serving Pepsi, and who can blame them? With Coke dominating the market, as well as being a source of Georgian pride, it’s no surprise that the brand name has become synonymous with the category of beverage.

  5. Pinky says:

    The “soft drink” map suggests a very specific area: the fringes of the coke / soda divide, the South but not the Deep South.

  6. CSK says:

    Forty years ago, when I was but a child, all carbonated beverages were referred to by New Englanders as “tonic” (pronounced “tawnic”). Didn’t matter whether it was ginger ale, Coke, Pepsi, root beer–it was all “tawnic.” The old timers still use the word.

  7. Dave Schuler says:

    I grew up saying “soda” but have lived in Chicago all of my adult life (“pop”). Learning the language was an early challenge.

  8. Trumwill says:

    It’s not as though this is the first time that 81% of Americans are wrong.

  9. Just Me says:

    I grew up in the south-it was coke.

    I live in NH and it is a soda.

    I have adapted.

  10. grumpy realist says:

    @CSK: oh yes indeed… bring back memories.

    Long Live The Tonic!

    (….aaaand–what do you call that thing made of milk, syrup, and ice cream….?)

  11. Liberal Capitalist says:

    I travel a lot, so it’s “Soda Pop”.

    Still, I have to admit, I had my first real cream soda this year. It was a revelation.

    A&W, you should be ashamed.

  12. CSK says:

    @grumpy realist:

    When I was a kid, a “milkshake” was something with syrup and milk, unlike the understanding of the term in the rest of the country. If it was milk, syrup, and ice cream, it was a “frappe.” Or, in Rhode Island, a “cabinet,” for reasons that still continue to elude me.

  13. Moosebreath says:

    That’s OK — someday they will do polling on the name for a sandwich on a long roll.

    Remember — the correct answer is hoagie.

  14. beth says:


    Remember — the correct answer is hoagie.


  15. Just Me says:

    Grew up eating subs and now I’m eating grinders.

    I also get weird looks when I call it a water fountain (up here it is a bubbler or a drinking fountain-water fountains are features you see at parks and might throw pennies into).

  16. Hi,That nice post Tks