Football is America’s Favorite Sport as Lead Over Baseball Continues to Grow

    NEW YORK, N.Y. – January 25, 2012 – For two months every year, sports fans have to make a decision – watch football or baseball on Sundays? Based on the numbers of Americans who say it’s their favorite sport, one would have to assume that football wins hands down. Over one-third of adults who follow at least one sport (36%) say professional football is their favorite sport while just 13% say baseball is their favorite. The gap between the two sports has widened in the past year – last year 31% said pro football was their favorite while 17% said baseball was their favorite sport.

    These are some of the results of The Harris Poll of 2,237 adults surveyed online between December 5 and 12, 2011 by Harris Interactive.

    Looking at how other sports fared, just over one in ten sports fans (13%) say college football is their favorite sport while 8% say it is auto racing, 5% each say men’s professional basketball, men’s college basketball and hockey. All other sports are favorites for 2% or less of sports fans.

    There are some fluctuations in favorites over time. Since this question was first asked in 1985, professional football has gone up 12 points from 24% of sports fans saying it was their favorite sport then to 36% saying so now. Baseball, on the other hand, has gone down 10 points from 23% in 1985 to 13% today. College football, auto racing and hockey have all gone up 3 points while men’s tennis has gone down 3 points

    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 (48%), those aged 30-39 years (46%), and those with some college (42%) are more likely to say professional football is their favorite sport while those with a post-graduate education (28%), Born-again Christians (30%), and those aged 65 and older (30%) are less likely to do so. When it comes to baseball, those aged 50 – 64 (21%), Hispanics (19%), and Easterners (17%) are more likely to cite it as their favorite sport. African Americans (6%), those aged 30-39 (6%) and households with children (9%) are least likely to say baseball is their favorite. Looking at college football, those with a post-graduate degree (22%), college graduates (19%) and Midwesterners (18%) are more likely to say it’s their favorite sport while Easterners (4%), those with a household income of under $35,000 (8%) and those aged 50-64 (8%) are least likely to say so.

    So What?

    As we got closer to the beginning of the football season there was a sense of gloom that it might not start. However, the talks succeeded and the season began on time. This scare did not seem to drive fans away from the sport, but rather, moved more people to it as the gap between football and baseball is now the largest it’s ever been at 23 points. The question is why? Is it that football is doing everything right and baseball is doing something wrong? Or, is the draw of one sport just that much larger than the other. Next year, it is possible that college football could overtake baseball and what would that say about America’s pastime?

     

    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

    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

    2011

    CHANGE

    1985-2011

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    Pro football

    29

    30

    33

    29

    30

    31

    35

    31

    36

    12

    Baseball

    13

    15

    14

    14

    15

    16

    16

    17

    13

    -10

    College football

    9

    11

    13

    13

    12

    12

    12

    12

    13

    3

    Auto racing

    9

    7

    11

    9

    10

    8

    9

    7

    8

    3

    Men’s pro basketball

    10

    7

    4

    7

    4

    6

    5

    6

    5

    1

    Men’s college basketball

    6

    6

    5

    5

    4

    5

    3

    4

    5

    -1

    Hockey

    3

    4

    5

    4

    5

    5

    4

    5

    5

    3

    Men’s tennis

    2

    1

    1

    2

    1

    1

    1

    2

    2

    -3

    Boxing

    NA

    2

    2

    1

    1

    2

    2

    1

    2

    NA

    Horse racing

    2

    1

    2

    1

    2

    1

    2

    1

    2

    -2

    Swimming

    NA

    NA

    NA

    NA

    NA

    2

    1

    1

    2

    NA

    Men’s golf

    5

    4

    4

    4

    4

    4

    4

    2

    2

    -1

    Track & field

    3

    1

     

    2

    1

    1

    1

    2

    1

    -1

    Men’s soccer

    3

    3

    2

    2

    2

    3

    2

    4

    1

    -2

    Bowling

    1

    1

    1

    1

    2

    1

    1

    2

    1

    -2

    Women’s tennis

    2

    2

    1

    1

     

    1

    1

    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

    1

    NA

    Pro football’s lead over baseball

    16

    15

    19

    15

    15

    15

    19

    14

    23

    22

    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

    36

    African Americans

    48

    Post-grad

    28

    Those aged 30-39

    46

    Born-again Christians

    30

    Some college

    42

    Those aged 65+

    30

    Baseball

    13

    Those aged 50-64

    21

    African Americans

    6

    Hispanics

    19

    Those aged 30-39

    6

    Easterners

    17

    Households with children

    9

    College Football

    13

    Post grads

    22

    Easterners

    4

    College graduates

    19

    Income less than $35K

    8

    Midwesterners

    18

    Those aged 50-64

    8

    Auto Racing

    8

    Income $50K – $74.9K

    12

    African Americans

    1

    H.S. or Less

    12

    Post grad

    1

    Those aged 65+

    12

    Liberals

    4

     

     

    Methodology

    This Harris Poll was conducted online within the United States between December 5 to 12, 2011 among 2,237 adults (aged 18 and over), 1,466 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.

    J40990

    Q955, 960

     

     

    The Harris Poll ® #9, January 25, 2012

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

    About Harris Interactive

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