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Footballs Still Doing The Touchdown Dance All Over Baseballs Home Plate
Mens Soccer, the Football of Europe, has also seen significant fan-base growth
NEW YORK, N.Y. January 21, 2015 With The Big Game just around the corner, football fans may be starting
to wonder whether or not their beloved game is still Americas Favorite Sport. Back in 1985, there was only a
one-point difference between the percentage of American adults who followed at least one sport and
considered pro football (24%) or baseball (23%) to be their favorite. At present, Americas pastime remains in
the past, as pro football is still Americas Favorite Sport now by a 16-point margin over baseball. Pro football is
the top pick among 32% of sports fans, while baseball only garners favorite status among half as many
Americans (16%). However, baseball enthusiasts can feel good that their sport of choice has managed a two
percent point increase from last years 14%, while football saw a three-point decrease from 2013s 35%
meaning the gap between the two narrowed by five points year-over-year.
These are some of the results of The Harris Poll of 2,255 U.S. adults surveyed online between December 10 and
15, 2014.
As if only to reaffirm the sports widespread appeal, mens college football comes in as Americas third favorite
sport, with 10% of adults supporting its claim, though, like its professional counterpart, this sport has also seen a
narrow decrease from last years 11%. The next two top sports have maintained their same fan percentages,
with auto racing at 7% and mens pro basketball, part of a three-way tie at 6%. Tied with basketball at 6% and
up from only 2% last year, the most noteworthy increase across the board, mens soccer has made the list of
Americas top five favorite sports. The final member of the 6% three-way-tie for Americas fifth favorite sport is
ice hockey, most beloved by one percent more of the population compared with last year (5%).
Who, what, & where are the real fans?
Though the total percentage of sports fans considering pro football to be their favorite is 32%, some
demographics are more attached to the game than others are. Generation X (43%), Easterners (37%), and
moderates (35%) are the demographics most likely to consider pro football to be their favorite sport.
Meanwhile, the lowest numbers can be found among Millennials (25%), adults who have completed postgraduate degrees (25%), and liberals (26%).
As for those who believe home runs are number one, the largest percentages can also be found among
Easterners (23%), Liberals (22%) and Baby-Boomers (20%). Meanwhile, those who consider baseball their
favorite sport are less abundant amidst Midwesterners (12%), Millennials (12%), and adults with children in their
households (10%).
While Easterners were among the most likely to be top fans of pro football and post-grads were some of the
least likely, the roles are reversed when it comes to college football. Post-grads (22%), Southerners (16%), and
conservatives (16%) contain the highest percentages of adults who consider college football to be their favorite
sport. On the other hand, Easterners (3%), adults living in an urban area (6%), and adults with household
incomes under $35,000 (6%) are least likely favor college football in this way.

When it comes to auto racing, the highest percentages of Americans who consider this their favorite sport exist
amongst adults who have completed high school or less (12%) and those with household incomes under $35,000
(12%). One in ten Southerners, Conservatives, and rural area residents also consider auto racing to be number
one (10% each). Concurrently, college graduates (2%), adults with household incomes of $75k or more (2%),
and Millennials (4%) are the least likely to be such strong admirers of auto racing.
Why do we watch?
When the Harris Poll asked Americans who enjoy watching sports what it is they actually enjoy about the
experience, the largest percentage (63%) confirmed that they enjoy watching because of the skill involved. Over
half also enjoy the rivalry between teams (57%), teamwork (55%), athleticism (54%), and strategy (51%).
Around two out of five sports viewers like to use watching sports as an opportunity for showing team pride
(41%), as well as enjoying the social aspect of watching with friends (38%). Meanwhile, roughly three in ten
sports viewers enjoy watching sports for reasons such as the family tradition of watching (31%), speed of play
(31%), and the camaraderie with other fans (28%). Certain aspects of sports viewership also resonate with some
demographics more than with others.

Millennials viewers are more likely than their counterparts in any other generation to appreciate the
social aspect of watching with friends (50% vs. 39% Gen Xers, 32% Baby Boomers, & 20% Matures).

Viewers living the in the eastern and western regions of America are more likely than those in the
Midwest and South to favor watching sports for the athleticism (60% & 59% vs. 49% each respectively).

In addition, the two reasons for watching that appeal more to female viewers than their male
counterparts are the social aspects of watching with friends (42% vs. 35%) and the family tradition of
watching (37% vs. 26%).

The great Is that a sport? debate


But what about the competitions out there on the fringe, possibly walking the fine line between sport and
activity? Of the available choices, only bowling garnered a majority (52%) of voters seeing it as an actual sport.
Dodgeball and kickball tied for second place with strong minorities (40%). These are followed by competitive
dance (34%), fishing (33%), cheerleading (33%), ultimate frisbee (32%), and billiards (28%). At the bottom of the
list, with less than one in five Americans supporting their status as a sport, are chess (14%), poker (11%),
quidditch (11%), video gaming (9%), and competitive eating (6%). Unfortunately for fans hoping to see any of
these rise in popularity to the point of becoming Americas favorite sport, 25% of the population does not
consider any of these to even be a sport.
Interestingly, Millennials showed themselves to be the most open-minded when it comes to what is a sport, as
they threw more support behind a number of options than any other generation.

Dodgeball (49% Millennials vs. 38% Gen Xers, 35% Baby Boomers, & 36% Matures)

Competitive dance (42% vs. 33%, 30%, & 25% respectively)

Ultimate frisbee (41% vs. 32%, 26%, & 24% respectively)

Quidditch (19% vs. 9%, 6%, & 4% respectively)

Video gaming (16% vs. 6%, 6%, & 4% respectively)

Competitive eating (11% vs. 4%, 3%, & 1% respectively)

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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
%
%
%
%
%
%
Pro football
24
26
28
24
24
28
Baseball
23
19
21
18
17
17
Mens college football
10
6
7
8
7
10
Auto racing
5
4
5
6
5
5
Mens pro basketball
6
7
8
12
11
13
Mens soccer
3
2
2
1
3
3
Ice hockey
2
3
3
3
5
4
Mens college basketball
6
10
8
8
8
6
Boxing
NA
NA
NA
NA
NA
NA
Mens golf
3
4
4
6
5
6
Womens tennis
NA
NA
NA
NA
NA
NA
Track & field
2
2
1
1
2
2
Horse racing
4
3
3
2
2
2
Mens tennis
5
4
4
4
3
3
Womens soccer
NA
NA
NA
NA
NA
NA
Bowling
3
5
2
2
1
1
Swimming
NA
NA
NA
NA
NA
NA
Womens college basketball
NA
NA
NA
NA
NA
NA
Womens pro basketball
NA
NA
NA
NA
NA
NA
Womens golf
NA
NA
NA
NA
NA
NA
Not sure
*
1
4
1
2
2
Pro footballs lead over baseball
1
7
7
6
7
11
Note 1: NA = Not asked in that year. Men and womens sports were not always distinguished
Note 2: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding.
Note 3: * indicates less than 0.5%

1998
%
26
18
9
7
13
4
3
4
NA
4
NA
3
2
4
NA
2
NA
1
*
NA
1
8

2002
%
27
14
9
10
11
3
3
4
NA
4
3
1
1
1
NA
2
NA
1
1
NA
3
13

2003
%
29
13
9
9
10
3
3
6
NA
5
2
3
2
2
NA
1
NA
*
1
1
1
16

2004
%
30
15
11
7
7
3
4
6
2
4
2
1
1
1
1
1
NA
1
*
*
2
15

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
2005

2006

2007

2008

2009

2010

2011

%
%
%
%
%
%
%
Pro football
33
29
30
31
35
31
36
Baseball
14
14
15
16
16
17
13
Mens college football
13
13
12
12
12
12
13
Auto racing
11
9
10
8
9
7
8
Mens pro basketball
4
7
4
6
5
6
5
Mens soccer
2
2
2
3
2
4
1
Ice hockey
5
4
5
5
4
5
5
Mens college basketball
5
5
4
5
3
4
5
Boxing
2
1
1
2
2
1
2
Mens golf
4
4
4
4
4
2
2
Womens tennis
1
1
*
1
1
1
1
Track & field
*
2
1
1
1
2
1
Horse racing
2
1
2
1
2
1
2
Mens tennis
1
2
1
1
1
2
2
Womens soccer
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
Bowling
1
1
2
1
1
2
1
Swimming
NA
NA
NA
2
1
1
2
Womens college basketball
*
1
1
*
*
*
Womens pro basketball
*
*
*
*
*
*
Womens golf
*
1
*
*
*
*
*
Not sure
2
3
2
1
2
3
1
Pro footballs lead over baseball
19
15
15
15
19
14
23
Note 1: NA = Not asked in that year. Men and womens sports were not always distinguished
Note 2: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding.
Note 3: * indicates less than 0.5%

2012

2013

2014

%
34
16
11
8
7
2
5
3
1
2
1
1
1
2
*
1
2
1
*
*
2
18

%
35
14
11
7
6
2
5
3
2
2
1
1
1
2
*
1
2
1
*
*
3
21

%
32
16
10
7
6
6
6
3
2
2
2
2
1
1
1
1
1
*
*
*
2
16

CHANGE
19852014
%
11
-7
0
2
0
3
4
-3
NA
-1
NA
0
-3
-4
NA
-2
NA
NA
NA
NA
2
18

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
All
Highest
Lowest
Adults
Sport
%
%
Generation X
43
Millennials
Pro
32
Easterners
37
Post-Grads
football
Moderates
35
Liberals

Baseball

16

College
Football

10

Auto
Racing

Easterners
Liberals
Baby Boomers
Post-Grads
Southerners
Conservatives
Adults who completed High School or less
Adults whose household income is $34.9k or less
Southerners, Conservatives, and adults living in
Rural areas

%
25
25
26

23
22
20
22
16
16
12
12

Adults with Children in Household


Millennials
Midwesterners
Easterners
Adults living in Urban areas
Adults whose household income is $34.9k or less
College Grads
Adults whose household income is $75k or more

10
12
12
3
6
6
2
2

10

Millennials

TABLE 3
WHY AMERICANS ENJOY WATCHING SPORTS
Which of the following, if any, describes what you enjoy about watching sports? Please select all that apply.
Base: All adults who enjoy watching sports
Gender
Generation
Region
Baby
Total
Millennials
Gen Xers
Matures
Male Female
Boomers
East Midwest South
(18-37)
(38-49)
(69+)
(50-68)
%
63
68
58
59
63
65
69
67
62
60
Skill involved
Rivalry between
%
57
63
51
54
61
57
59
64
60
53
teams
%
55
60
48
49
59
58
55
57
53
52
Teamwork
%
54
61
46
54
61
53
46
60
49
49
Athleticism
%
51
61
39
52
53
50
43
53
45
51
Strategy
Competition between
%
42
49
34
42
individual players
%
41
40
43
43
Showing team pride
Social aspect
%
38
35
42
50
watching with friends
Family tradition of
%
31
26
37
38
watching
%
31
35
26
35
Speed of play
Camaraderie with
%
28
27
29
33
others
%
4
5
3
3
Other
Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding

West
65
54
56
59
52

49

40

37

49

35

41

42

47

40

32

46

42

42

35

39

32

20

39

34

38

41

31

29

20

30

31

32

30

26

30

26

34

27

31

30

29

27

12

32

26

24

29

TABLE 4
WHICH DO YOU CONSIDER A SPORT
Which of the following activities, when participated in competitively, would you consider to be a sport? Please select all that apply.
Base: All adults who enjoy watching sports
Gender
Generation
Region
Baby
Total
Millennials
Gen Xers
Matures
Male Female
Boomers
East Midwest South West
(18-37)
(38-49)
(69+)
(50-68)
%
52
51
53
47
48
57
60
57
50
48
57
Bowling
%
40
38
42
49
38
35
36
41
38
38
46
Dodgeball
%
40
37
43
44
39
37
39
41
38
38
43
Kickball
%
34
26
41
42
33
30
25
29
35
31
44
Competitive dance
%
33
32
34
33
29
35
36
29
32
35
37
Fishing
%
33
29
37
41
35
28
24
30
31
35
36
Cheerleading
%
32
30
34
41
32
26
24
31
28
27
43
Ultimate Frisbee
%
28
30
25
23
28
30
34
27
29
25
30
Billiards/Pool
%
14
14
14
15
13
15
12
12
16
13
15
Chess
%
11
11
12
13
8
12
9
14
10
10
12
Poker
%
11
9
13
19
9
6
4
10
10
11
12
Quidditch
%
9
13
6
16
6
6
4
10
8
10
10
Video gaming
%
6
7
4
11
4
3
1
5
4
7
7
Competitive eating
%
25
23
27
21
30
28
22
26
26
27
21
None of these
Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding

Methodology
This Harris Poll was conducted online within the United States between December 10 and 15, 2014 among
2,255 adults (aged 18 and over). 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, The Harris Poll 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 Poll
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 our 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 The Harris Poll.
Product and brand names are trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective owners.

The Harris Poll #7, January 21, 2015


By Hannah Pollack, Harris Poll Research Analyst

About The Harris Poll


Begun in 1963, The Harris Poll is one of the longest running surveys measuring public opinion in the U.S. and is
highly regarded throughout the world. The nationally representative polls, conducted primarily online, measure
the knowledge, opinions, behaviors and motivations of the general public. New and trended polls on a wide
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