Pro Football is Still America’s Favorite Sport

Pro baseball and college football continue to round out the top three

05:00 AM EST Jan 26, 2016 Rating
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Pro Football is Still America’s Favorite Sport

NEW YORK, N.Y. – This is a conflicting time for football fans. On the one hand, with “The Big Game” (#50, no less) fast approaching, it’s a time of excitement, especially now that we know which teams (the Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers, in case you hadn’t heard) will face off in Santa Clara on February seventh. On the other hand, discussions continue in regards to the sport’s long term impact on players’ health. But concussion controversies don’t appear to have diminished fan ardor, as pro football continues its long reign as America’s Favorite Sport.

In 1985, pro baseball was only marginally behind football, with 23% of sports fans naming baseball as their favorite sport (to pro football’s 24%). Today, football leads baseball by 18 percentage points, with 33% choosing pro football as their favorite sport and 15% selecting baseball. Neither sport has seen noteworthy change since last year, with selections of football trending up a single percentage point while baseball selections have decreased a single point.

These are some of the results of The Harris Poll® of 2,252 U.S. adults (of whom 1,510 follow at least one sport) surveyed online between December 9 and 14, 2015.

Men’s college football makes the third strongest showing, with 10% of sports fans selecting it as their favorite (identical to the percentage selecting it last year). Continuing down the list, 6% select auto racing as their favorite (down one point from last year) and 5% each select men’s pro basketball and ice hockey (both also down one point).

Who’s obsessed and who couldn’t care less?

Each of the top sports have groups they resonate with strongly and other demographics who are less likely to show as high a level of fervor.

 

TABLE 1

FAVORITE SPORT

"If you had to choose, which ONE of these sports would you say is your favorite?”

Base: All adults who follow one or more sport

 

1985

1989

1992

1993

1994

1997

1998

2002

2003

2004

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

Pro football

24

26

28

24

24

28

26

27

29

30

Baseball

23

19

21

18

17

17

18

14

13

15

Men’s college football

10

6

7

8

7

10

9

9

9

11

Auto racing

5

4

5

6

5

5

7

10

9

7

Men’s pro basketball

6

7

8

12

11

13

13

11

10

7

Ice hockey

2

3

3

3

5

4

3

3

3

4

Men’s soccer

3

2

2

1

3

3

4

3

3

3

Men’s college basketball

6

10

8

8

8

6

4

4

6

6

Men’s golf

3

4

4

6

5

6

4

4

5

4

Boxing

NA

NA

NA

NA

NA

NA

NA

NA

NA

2

Swimming

NA

NA

NA

NA

NA

NA

NA

NA

NA

NA

Track & field

2

2

1

1

2

2

3

1

3

1

Horse racing

4

3

3

2

2

2

2

1

2

1

Women’s soccer

NA

NA

NA

NA

NA

NA

NA

NA

NA

1

Women’s college basketball

NA

NA

NA

NA

NA

NA

1

1

*

1

Women’s pro basketball

NA

NA

NA

NA

NA

NA

*

1

1

*

Men’s tennis

5

4

4

4

3

3

4

1

2

1

Bowling

3

5

2

2

1

1

2

2

1

1

Women’s tennis

NA

NA

NA

NA

NA

NA

NA

3

2

2

Women’s golf

NA

NA

NA

NA

NA

NA

NA

NA

1

*

Not sure

*

1

4

1

2

2

1

3

1

2

Pro football’s lead over baseball

1

7

7

6

7

11

8

13

16

15

Note 1: NA = Not asked in that year. Men and women’s sports were not always distinguished

Note 2: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding. 

Note 3: “*” indicates less than 0.5%

 


TABLE 1 (continued)

FAVORITE SPORT

"If you had to choose, which ONE of these sports would you say is your favorite?”

Base: All adults who follow one or more sport

 

2005

2006

2007

2008

2009

2010

2011

2012

2013

2014

2015

CHANGE

1985–2015

 

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

Pro football

33

29

30

31

35

31

36

34

35

32

33

+9

Baseball

14

14

15

16

16

17

13

16

14

16

15

-8

Men’s college football

13

13

12

12

12

12

13

11

11

10

10

=

Auto racing

11

9

10

8

9

7

8

8

7

7

6

+1

Men’s pro basketball

4

7

4

6

5

6

5

7

6

6

5

-1

Ice hockey

5

4

5

5

4

5

5

5

5

6

5

+3

Men’s soccer

2

2

2

3

2

4

1

2

2

6

4

+1

Men’s college basketball

5

5

4

5

3

4

5

3

3

3

4

-2

Men’s golf

4

4

4

4

4

2

2

2

2

2

3

=

Boxing

2

1

1

2

2

1

2

1

2

2

3

NA

Swimming

NA

NA

NA

2

1

1

2

2

2

1

2

NA

Track & field

*

2

1

1

1

2

1

1

1

2

2

=

Horse racing

2

1

2

1

2

1

2

1

1

1

1

-3

Women’s soccer

*

*

*

*

*

*

*

*

*

1

1

NA

Women’s college basketball

*

1

1

*

*

-

*

1

1

*

1

NA

Women’s pro basketball

*

*

*

*

*

-

*

*

*

*

1

NA

Men’s tennis

1

2

1

1

1

2

2

2

2

1

1

-4

Bowling

1

1

2

1

1

2

1

1

1

1

*

-3

Women’s tennis

1

1

*

1

1

1

1

1

1

2

*

NA

Women’s golf

*

1

*

*

*

*

*

*

*

*

*

NA

Not sure

2

3

2

1

2

3

1

2

3

2

3

+3

Pro football’s lead over baseball

19

15

15

15

19

14

23

18

21

16

18

 

Note 1: NA = Not asked in that year. Men and women’s sports were not always distinguished

Note 2: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding.

Note 3: “*” indicates less than 0.5%

 


TABLE 2

DEMOGRAPHIC VARIATIONS IN FAVORITE SPORTS

If you had to choose, which ONE of these sports would you say is your favorite?”

Base: All adults who follow more than one sport      

Sport

All Adults

Highest

Lowest

%

 

%

 

%

Pro football

33

Adults with household incomes of $75,000-<$100,000

48

Adults with household incomes of $100,000+

21

Baseball

15

Easterners

24

Millennials, Adults with household incomes under $35,000, Adults in households with children

9

Post graduates

23

Midwesterners, Adults wo have completed some college

10

College Football

10

Gen Xers

17

Easterners

5

Post graduates

15

Adults with household incomes of $35,000-<$50,000

6

Auto Racing

6

Baby Boomers, Rural Americans

10

Post grads, Adults with household incomes of $75,000-<$100,000

1

Adults with household incomes under $35,000

9

Millennials

3

 


Methodology

This Harris Poll was conducted online, in English, within the United States between December 9 and 14, 2015 among 2,252 adults (aged 18 and over), of whom 1,510 follow at least one sport. Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online. 

All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to multiple sources of error which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments. Therefore, The Harris Poll avoids the words “margin of error” as they are misleading. All that can be calculated are different possible sampling errors with different probabilities for pure, unweighted, random samples with 100% response rates. These are only theoretical because no published polls come close to this ideal.

Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Harris Poll surveys. The data have been weighted to reflect the composition of the adult population. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in our panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

These statements conform to the principles of disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

 

The results of this Harris Poll may not be used in advertising, marketing or promotion without the prior written permission of The Harris Poll.

 

Product and brand names are trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective owners.

 

The Harris Poll® #7, January 26, 2016

By Larry Shannon-Missal, Managing Editor, The Harris Poll

About The Harris Poll®

Begun in 1963, The Harris Poll is one of the longest running surveys measuring public opinion in the U.S. and is highly regarded throughout the world. The nationally representative polls, conducted primarily online, measure the knowledge, opinions, behaviors and motivations of the general public. New and trended polls on a wide variety of subjects including politics, the economy, healthcare, foreign affairs, science and technology, sports and entertainment, and lifestyles are published weekly. 

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