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Football Continues to be America's Favorite Sport; the Gap With Baseball Narrows Slightly this Year

College football and auto racing remain third and fourth

NEW YORK, Jan. 17, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- Football versus baseball. It's an argument for bars and living rooms all across the nation. But, when it comes to America's favorite sport, football wins. Over one-third of adults who follow at least one sport (34%) say professional football is their favorite sport while just 16% say baseball is their favorite. The gap between the two sports has narrowed from 2011 to 2012 – in 2011 36% said pro football was their favorite while 13% said baseball was their favorite sport.

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These are some of the results of The Harris Poll of 2,176 adults surveyed online between December 12 and 18, 2012 by Harris Interactive.

Looking at how other sports fared, just over one in ten sports fans (11%) say college football is their favorite sport while 8% say it is auto racing, 7% say men's professional basketball, and 5% say hockey.  All other sports are favorites for 3% 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 10 points from 24% of sports fans saying it was their favorite sport then to 34% saying so now. Baseball, on the other hand, has gone down 7 points, from 23% in 1985 to 16% today.  Auto racing and hockey have both gone up 3 points while men's tennis, men's college basketball and horse racing have all 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 40-49 years (41%), and Westerners (40%) are more likely to say professional football is their favorite sport, while those aged 18-24 (23%), college graduates (27%), and Southerners (30%) are less likely to do so. When it comes to baseball, Midwesterners (20%), those aged 50-64 (19%), and Conservatives (19%) are more likely to cite it as their favorite sport; those aged 25-29 (8%), households with income under $35,000 (11%) and Southerners (12%) are least likely to say baseball is their favorite.

So What?
The past year has been a bruising one for more than one professional sports league.  NFL was rocked by the one-two punch of March's bounty scandal and fan outcry over the replacement referees in September.  Meanwhile, professional hockey is only now poised to return – three months later than normal due to a player lockout.  However, both seem to be holding their own in terms of fan interest, with neither suffering pronounced year over year drops – an indication that fan passion has thus far persevered.

That said, there are other options for sports lovers.  College football continues to be a powerhouse, and with a hotly anticipated four-team playoff system replacing the current BCS system in 2014, fan ardor could well see an uptick.  If the professional leagues aren't careful about restoring or maintaining their images, college sports could be the beneficiaries.



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

2012

CHANGE

1985–2012

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

Pro football

29

30

33

29

30

31

35

31

36

34

10

Baseball

13

15

14

14

15

16

16

17

13

16

-7

College football

9

11

13

13

12

12

12

12

13

11

1

Auto racing

9

7

11

9

10

8

9

7

8

8

3

Men's pro basketball

10

7

4

7

4

6

5

6

5

7

1

Men's college basketball

6

6

5

5

4

5

3

4

5

3

-3

Hockey

3

4

5

4

5

5

4

5

5

5

3

Men's tennis

2

1

1

2

1

1

1

2

2

2

-3

Boxing

NA

2

2

1

1

2

2

1

2

1

NA

Horse racing

2

1

2

1

2

1

2

1

2

1

-3

Swimming

NA

NA

NA

NA

NA

2

1

1

2

2

NA

Men's golf

5

4

4

4

4

4

4

2

2

2

-1

Track & field

3

1

*

2

1

1

1

2

1

1

-1

Men's soccer

3

3

2

2

2

3

2

4

1

2

-1

Bowling

1

1

1

1

2

1

1

2

1

1

-2

Women's tennis

2

2

1

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

*

*

-

*

1

NA

Women's golf

1

*

*

1

*

*

*

*

*

*

NA

Not sure

1

2

2

3

2

1

2

3

1

2

NA

Pro football's lead over baseball

16

15

19

15

15

15

19

14

23

18

17

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

34

African Americans

48

Those aged 18-24

23

Those aged 40-49

41

College grads

27

Westerners

40

Southerners

30

Baseball

16

Midwesterners

20

Those aged 25-29

8

Those aged 50-64

19

Income $34.9K or less

11

Conservatives

19

Southerners

12

College Football

11

Those aged 18-24

23

Easterners

3

Post grads

18

African Americans

4

Southerners

18

Hispanics

5

Auto Racing

8

Those living in rural areas

16

African Americans

*

Those aged 65+

12

Those aged 30-39

1

Education of HS or less

11

Post grads

2



Methodology
This Harris Poll was conducted online within the United States between December 12 to 18, 2012 among 2,176 adults (aged 18 and over), 1,476 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.

J42319
Q955, 960

The Harris Poll® #3, January 17, 2013
By Regina A. Corso, SVP, Harris Poll and Public Relations, Harris Interactive

About Harris Interactive
Harris Interactive is one of the world's leading market research firms, leveraging research, technology, and business acumen to transform relevant insight into actionable foresight. Known widely for the Harris Poll® and for pioneering innovative research methodologies, Harris offers proprietary solutions in the areas of market and customer insight, corporate brand and reputation strategy, and marketing, advertising, public relations and communications research. Harris possesses expertise in a wide range of industries including health care, technology, public affairs, energy, telecommunications, financial services, insurance, media, retail, restaurant, and consumer package goods. Additionally, Harris has a portfolio of multi-client offerings that complement our custom solutions while maximizing our client's research investment. Serving clients in more than 196 countries and territories through our North American and European offices, Harris specializes in delivering research solutions that help us – and our clients – stay ahead of what's next. For more information, please visit www.harrisinteractive.com.

Press Contact:
Corporate Communications
Harris Interactive
212-539-9600
[email protected]  

SOURCE Harris Poll

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