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Thursday, April 01, 2010

Sports and politics, mixed

A recent study by National Media, Inc., a GOP firm (conducted by Scarborough USA, a joint project of Nielsen and Arbitron) found that dedicated sports fans tended to vote Republican than Democrat. The strongest Republican support was among fans of the PGA, college football, and NASCAR; strongest Democrat support was among fans of the NBA, WNBA, men's and women's tennis, and WWE (!). Fans of baseball, the NFL, and college basketball leaned Republican, but in somewhat closer numbers. The poll is based on 218,000 surveys conducted between August 2008 and September 2009.

Based in part on my interest in speech at sporting events, the connection between politics and sports (and sports fans) is of interest to me. The (likely) political make-up of the fan base at a game says a lot about what sorts of speech fans will tolerate from other fans at the game.

But I admit to being a bit surprised by the results, particularly the breakdown by individual sport. Although I probably should not be. Presumably white men make-up a big portion of sports fans and that group now tends to lean Republican. Conversely, perhaps women are more likely to self-identify as Democrats but less likely to be die-hard sports fans? There are presumptive geographic lines with some of the strongly GOP sports (NASCAR, bull riding) that map political lines. The college football and basketball numbers also are interesting. If (as I believe polling shows--I could be wrong) people with college degrees (or higher) lean Democrat, this poll suggests the people watching and rooting in those sports did not attend the colleges they are rooting for. Again, not a surprise, since the fan base for, say, Duke basketball or Florida football is broader than Duke's or Florida's student/alumni base. And a sport like college football again has geographic lines--it is probably most popular in the South and non-urban Midwest--that map political lines. Finally, the size of the gap is surprising; if you look at the breakdown, Republicans enjoy a double-digit advantage among fans of most major sports (except baseball and pro basketball).

Maybe I just need a bigger circle. My closest friends and family all tend to be liberal Democrats who love sports.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on April 1, 2010 at 01:33 PM in Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics, Sports | Permalink


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I found a couple insights surprising in the data...

I wonder what separates Monster Truck fans and NASCAR fans? I would have hypothesized that they would have similar audiences, but Monster Truck fans are much more liberal

I was surprised that men's tennis skewed on the liberal side.


Posted by: Sam | Apr 8, 2010 7:20:14 PM

I like Carissa's second explanation, although I wonder how that plays out in the difference between NBA (overwhelmingly Dem) and college basketball (close-but-GOP).

Posted by: Howard Wasserman | Apr 1, 2010 8:14:03 PM

I wonder if there might be other fun explanations for the NFL/college football divergence. Maybe NCAA divsion one schools are more likely to graduate Republicans than Democrats, and lots of college fans are really just rooting for their alma mater. There is also the fact that big urban areas (which tend to vote Democrat) are more likely to have professional football teams, and maybe people who live near professional teams are less likely to follow college football.

Fun questions to speculate about . . .

Posted by: carissa | Apr 1, 2010 7:52:09 PM

I don't think the studies show that college graduates lean Democrat. College graduates are more likely to be Republican. Those with graduate degrees, however, are more likely to be Democrats.

The breakdown usually is those with the least and most education trend Democrat, with everyone in the middle trending Republican.

Posted by: Mr. Wrestling II | Apr 1, 2010 2:59:24 PM

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