Chicagoans have long felt a special connection to their city’s sports teams. In a recent Harris Poll survey of Cook County (IL) residents conducted in December 2023, the vast majority identified as a fan of at least one of Chicago’s major professional sports teams. More insights from that and a September 2023 survey relating to the Chicago Bears NFL team, the Chicago Bulls NBA basketball team, MLB’s Cubs and White Sox baseball teams, NHL’s Chicago Blackhawks hockey team, MLS’ Chicago Fire soccer team, WNBA’s Chicago Sky women’s basketball team, and NWSL’s Chicago Red Stars women’s soccer team are below.

The Bears are the apple of Chicago’s eye.

A majority of Chicago-area residents identify as fans of the Bears (57%) and Bulls (53%). The Cubs are the next most popular at 49% identifying as fans, followed by the Blackhawks (41%), White Sox (38%), Fire (15%), Sky (14%), and Red Stars (3%). Interestingly, more city residents than suburban Cook County residents identify as fans for each team save for the Blackhawks—who can count a third (35%) of city residents as fans and nearly half of suburban residents (48%) as fans—and the Bears, whose shares of fans are much closer: 56% for city residents and 58% for suburban residents. Only one in six (16%) identify to be not a fan of any major sports team provided.

The Bears also lead in optimism for the future.

Despite the lackluster on-the-field performance by most Chicago teams, 80% feel optimistic for at least one team’s future performance. Perhaps wielding the first overall pick in the NFL Draft for the second consecutive year or a much anticipated new stadium development are giving local football fans reason to hope for brighter days ahead. Just over half (51%) of Cook County residents reports feeling hopeful for the future of the Chicago Bear, compared to 48% for the Cubs, 42% for the Bulls, 37% for the Blackhawks, 31% for the White Sox, 16% for the Sky, 15% for the Fire, and 7% for the Red Stars.

Locals also have opinions concerning the Bears’ possible relocation from Soldier Field. About two in five (41%) of city residents think that the City of Chicago would be worse off if the team were to relocate to a stadium in the suburbs, compared to 23% who think the city would better off after such a move, with 25% thinking there’d be no impact and 11% not sure. Only one in ten (13%) think the city would be worse off if they continue to play at Soldier Field, compared to 41% who think the city would be better off if Soldier Field stayed the home of the Bears, with 38% citing there’d be no impact and 7% not sure. If Soldier Field does lose its most famous tenant, half of city residents (49%) think the city would benefit from renovating the stadium into a multipurpose venue.

Little love for the White Sox.

The fifth-most popular team by fandom among Cook County Residents, the White Sox, has publicly considered moving to a new development in Chicago called The 78 or possibly leaving the state entirely to relocate to Nashville. When asked what impact the White Sox relocating to another city or state would have on the City of Chicago, city residents don’t seem too worried, with only two in five (39%—the same number who identify as fans) thinking such a move would make Chicago worse off, compared to 32% saying there’d be no change and one in five (18%) actually thinking it would make the city better off, with 11% not sure. Similarly, 36% of city residents think Chicago would be better offer if the team stays put at their current stadium of Guaranteed Rate Field, with half (50%) thinking there’d be no change and only 7% thinking the city would be worse off if they retained their current set-up.

An earlier survey from September 2023 found overwhelming evidence that sports are ingrained in Chicago’s local culture, with the Cubs contributing most.

Nine in 10 Cook County residents (94%) agree sports are an important part of Chicago’s culture, according to a September 2023 Harris Poll survey. The Bears and Bulls may lead in fandom, but the Cubs were found to have the largest positive impact on local culture by both city (77%) and suburban (84%) residents. The next best for city residents were the Bulls (75%) and Bears (74%), followed by the Blackhawks (69%), White Sox (61%), Sky (33%), Fire (32%), and Red Stars (17%).

That earlier survey found that team relocations are cause for concern, but taxpayers may hesitate to accept the burden of retention.

Eight in 10 Chicagoans (81%) generally agree that the city would be negatively impacted if local sports teams relocate to other areas. Roughly equal shares of city and suburban residents agree that funding the construction of sports stadiums for local teams is a good use of taxpayer money at 39% and 41%, respectively—meaning that 61% of city residents and 59% suburban residents disagree. Most Chicago area residents are not on board with public funding for their teams’ stadiums. Simply put, the city loves its teams but expects them to pay for their own facilities.

These surveys were conducted online in the United States by The Harris Poll from September 13, 2023 to September 19, 2023 among 1,000 Cook County, IL residents ages 18+ and from December 6, 2023 to December 13, 2023 among 1,009 Cook County, IL residents ages 18+ . Figures were weighted where necessary to align with actual proportions within the Cook County, IL population. For additional information, please contact The Harris Poll. 

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AJ Skiera

Vice President of Strategy & Communications

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