While Gap Narrows, Professional Football Retains Lead over Baseball as Favorite Sport

    NEW YORK, N.Y. – January 20, 2011 – It’s the eternal debate among sports fans – football or baseball? Most die-hard sports fans will always say both, but, if forced to choose, football wins yet again. Three in ten Americans who follow at least one sport (31%) say professional football is their favorite sport while 17% say baseball. This is a narrowing of the gap from last year when over one-third (35%) of sports fans said professional football was their favorite sport and 16% said it was baseball.

    These are some of the results of The Harris Poll of 2,331 adults surveyed online between December 6 and 13, 2010 by Harris Interactive.

    Looking at how other sports fared, just over one in ten sports fans (12%) say college football is their favorite sport while 7% say it is auto racing, 6% say men’s professional basketball, 5% say hockey, and 4% each say men’s soccer and men’s college basketball. Most other sports are favorites for 2% or less of sports fans. Two sports however, women’s professional basketball and women’s college basketball, are not favorites for any sports fan.

    There are some fluctuations in favorites over time. Since this question was first asked in 1985, professional football has gone up 7 points from 24% of sports fans saying it was their favorite sport then to 31% saying so now. Baseball, on the other hand, has gone down 6 points from 23% in 1985 to 17% today.

    Who likes football and baseball… and who really doesn’t

    When it comes to the top sports, different groups are more likely to cite them as favorites. African Americans (45%), Baby Boomers (aged 46-64) (37%), and Easterners (34%) are more likely to say professional football is their favorite sport while Echo Boomers (aged 18-33) (23%), Hispanics (26%), and Midwesterners (26%) are less likely to do so. When it comes to baseball, Matures (those 65 and older) (21%), Hispanics (20%), and those with a high school or less education (20%) are more likely to cite it as their favorite sport. African Americans (6%), those with some college education (12%) and Echo Boomers (13%) are least likely to say baseball is their favorite.

    So What?

    While football may be the favorite sport, there is a decline in popularity from last year. And, with the possibility looming of a player’s lockout after this season ends, will fans stay loyal? In 1987 there was a strike and the popularity of the sport didn’t suffer any lasting damage. And all the major sports have been hit by labor disagreements over the past two decades, including the canceling of the World Series in 1994 and the Stanley Cup in 2005. What if there was no Super Bowl in 2012? Football will most likely survive, but that one day event is so different than both the hockey and baseball championships. Could you imagine no Super Bowl commercials?

     

    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

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    Pro football

    24

    26

    28

    24

    24

    28

    26

    27

    Baseball

    23

    19

    21

    18

    17

    17

    18

    14

    College football

    10

    6

    7

    8

    7

    10

    9

    9

    Auto racing

    5

    4

    5

    6

    5

    5

    7

    10

    Men’s pro basketball

    6

    7

    8

    12

    11

    13

    13

    11

    Hockey

    2

    3

    3

    3

    5

    4

    3

    3

    Men’s soccer

    3

    2

    2

    1

    3

    3

    4

    3

    Men’s college basketball

    6

    10

    8

    8

    8

    6

    4

    4

    Men’s golf

    3

    4

    4

    6

    5

    6

    4

    4

    Track & field

    2

    2

    1

    1

    2

    2

    3

    1

    Bowling

    3

    5

    2

    2

    1

    1

    2

    2

    Men’s tennis

    5

    4

    4

    4

    3

    3

    4

    1

    Boxing

    NA

    NA

    NA

    NA

    NA

    NA

    NA

    NA

    Horse racing

    4

    3

    3

    2

    2

    2

    2

    1

    Women’s tennis

    NA

    NA

    NA

    NA

    NA

    NA

    NA

    3

    Swimming

    NA

    NA

    NA

    NA

    NA

    NA

    NA

    NA

    Women’s pro basketball

    NA

    NA

    NA

    NA

    NA

    NA

     

    1

    Women’s soccer

    NA

    NA

    NA

    NA

    NA

    NA

    NA

    NA

    Women’s college basketball

    NA

    NA

    NA

    NA

    NA

    NA

    1

    1

    Women’s golf

    NA

    NA

    NA

    NA

    NA

    NA

    NA

    NA

    Not sure

     

    1

    4

    1

    2

    2

    1

    3

    Pro football’s lead over baseball

    1

    7

    7

    6

    7

    11

    8

    13

    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 S

    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

     

    2003

    2004

    2005

    2006

    2007

    2008

    2009

    2010

    CHANGE

    1985-2010

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    Pro football

    29

    30

    33

    29

    30

    31

    35

    31

    7

    Baseball

    13

    15

    14

    14

    15

    16

    16

    17

    -6

    College football

    9

    11

    13

    13

    12

    12

    12

    12

    2

    Auto racing

    9

    7

    11

    9

    10

    8

    9

    7

    2

    Men’s pro basketball

    10

    7

    4

    7

    4

    6

    5

    6

    0

    Hockey

    3

    4

    5

    4

    5

    5

    4

    5

    3

    Men’s soccer

    3

    3

    2

    2

    2

    3

    2

    4

    1

    Men’s college basketball

    6

    6

    5

    5

    4

    5

    3

    4

    -2

    Men’s golf

    5

    4

    4

    4

    4

    4

    4

    2

    -1

    Track & field

    3

    1

     

    2

    1

    1

    1

    2

    0

    Bowling

    1

    1

    1

    1

    2

    1

    1

    2

    -1

    Men’s tennis

    2

    1

    1

    2

    1

    1

    1

    2

    -3

    Boxing

    NA

    2

    2

    1

    1

    2

    2

    1

    NA

    Horse racing

    2

    1

    2

    1

    2

    1

    2

    1

    -3

    Women’s tennis

    2

    2

    1

    1

     

    1

    1

    1

    NA

    Swimming

    NA

    NA

    NA

    NA

    NA

    2

    1

    1

    NA

    Women’s pro basketball

    1

     

     

     

     

     

     

    NA

    Women’s soccer

    NA

    1

     

     

     

     

     

     

    NA

    Women’s college basketball

     

    1

     

    1

    1

     

     

    NA

    Women’s golf

    1

     

     

    1

     

     

     

     

    NA

    Not sure

    1

    2

    2

    3

    2

    1

    2

    3

    NA

    Pro football’s lead over baseball

    16

    15

    19

    15

    15

    15

    19

    14

    13

    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

    31

    African Americans

    45

    Hispanics

    26

    Those aged 46-64

    37

    Those aged 18-33

    23

    Easterners

    34

    Mid-westerners

    26

    Baseball

    17

    Hispanics

    20

    African Americans

    6

    Those aged 65+

    21

    Those aged 18-33

    13

    H.S. or less

    20

    Some college

    12

    College Football

    12

    Post grads

    18

    Easterners

    4

    Republicans

    17

    Hispanics

    3

    Southerners

    17

    H.S. or less

    10

    Auto Racing

    7

    Income $35K – $49.9K

    13

    African Americans

    H.S. or Less

    9

    Post grad

    2

    Republicans

    9

    Those aged 18-33

    3

     

     

    Methodology

    This Harris Poll was conducted online within the United States between December 6 to 13, 2010 among 2,331 adults (aged 18 and over), 1,647 of whom say they 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, Harris Interactive 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 Interactive 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 the Harris Interactive 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 Harris Interactive.

    J39118

    Q955, 960

     

     

    The Harris Poll ® #7, January 20, 2011

    By Regina A. Corso, SVP, Harris Poll, Public Relations and Youth Research, Harris Interactive

     

     

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