Professional Football Still Americas Favorite Sport

Baseball and College Football are Next in Popularity

ROCHESTER, N.Y.--()--Each of the major sports has had some image problems recently, but their popularity all remains relatively unchanged since last year. Three in ten Americans who follow one or more sport (30%) say that professional football is their favorite sport, almost unchanged from last year when 29 percent said it was their favorite. Coming in at second is baseball, as 15 percent say that is their favorite sport, again almost unchanged from last year when it was 14 percent. Not far behind baseball is college football (12%) and auto racing (10%). All other sports are in single digits.

These are the results of a nationwide Harris Interactive® survey conducted online between January 15 and 22, 2008 among 2,302 U.S. adults, of whom 1,562 follow one or more sport.

Since Harris Interactive began asking this question in 1985, professional football has always been on top and its popularity is now six points higher (from 24% to 30%). Compared to 1985s results, baseball has dropped eight percentage points (from 23% to 15%), and mens tennis has dropped four percentage points (from 5% to 1%). Professional football isnt the only sport to gain in popularity. Auto racing has also increased its popularity by five percentage points (from 5% to 10%) as has hockey (up 3 percentage points from 2% to 5%).

Demographic Variations

The survey also finds some sizable differences between different segments of the population:

  • Pro football is most popular among those with household incomes of $50,000 to under $75,000 (39%), among those ages 25-29 (37%) and 65 and older (35%) and Easterners (34%). Hispanics (20%) and those with a post graduate education (23%) are least likely to call football their favorite sport;
  • Baseball is most popular among Easterners (21%), those aged 30-39 (21%) and Democrats (20%). Southerners (8%) and those aged 65 and older (9%) are least likely to say baseball is their favorite sport;
  • College football is particularly popular among those with a college degree (22%) and Southerners (20%). Just three percent of those who live in the East cite college football as their favorite sport;
  • Auto racing (which includes NASCAR) is most popular among those aged 30-39 (14%), Southerners (13%) and Conservatives (13%), while it fares worst among Hispanics (1%), and those waged 18-24 (4%).

TABLE 1

FAVORITE SPORTS

"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
% % % % % % %
Pro football 24 26 28 24 24 28 26
Baseball 23 19 21 18 17 17 18
College football 10 6 7 8 7 10 9
Auto racing 5 4 5 6 5 5 7
Hockey 2 3 3 3 5 4 3
Mens pro basketball 6 7 8 12 11 13 13
Mens college basketball 6 10 8 8 8 6 4
Mens golf 3 4 4 6 5 6 4
Mens soccer 3 2 2 1 3 3 4
Horse racing 4 3 3 2 2 2 2
Mens tennis 5 4 4 4 3 3 4
Bowling 3 5 2 2 1 1 2
Track & field 2 2 1 1 2 2 3
Boxing NA NA NA NA NA NA NA
Womens college basketball NA NA NA NA NA NA 1
Womens tennis NA NA NA NA NA NA NA
Womens golf NA NA NA NA NA NA NA
Womens pro basketball NA NA NA NA NA NA *
Womens soccer NA NA NA NA NA NA NA
Not sure * 1 4 1 2 2 1
Pro footballs lead over

baseball

1 7 7 6 7 11 8
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%. "-" indicates no response.

TABLE 1 (continued)

FAVORITE SPORTS

"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

    2002   2003   2004   2005   2006   2008   CHANGE

19852006

% % % % % % %
Pro football 27 29 30 33 29 30 +6
Baseball 14 13 15 14 14 15 -8
College football 9 9 11 13 13 12 +2
Auto racing 10 9 7 11 9 10 +5
Hockey 3 3 4 5 4 5 +3
Mens pro basketball 11 10 7 4 7 4 -2
Mens college basketball 4 6 6 5 5 4 -2
Mens golf 4 5 4 4 4 4 +1
Mens soccer 3 3 3 2 2 2 -1
Horse racing 1 2 1 2 1 2 -2
Bowling 2 1 1 1 1 2 -1
Mens tennis 1 2 1 1 2 1 -4
Track & field 1 3 1 * 2 1 -1
Boxing NA NA 2 2 1 1 NA
Womens college basketball 1 * 1 * 1 1 NA
Womens tennis 3 2 2 1 1 * NA
Womens golf NA 1 * * 1 * NA
Womens pro basketball 1 1 * * * * NA
Womens soccer NA NA 1 * * * NA
Not sure 3 1 2 2 3 2 -
Pro footballs lead over

baseball

13 16 15 19 15 15 +14
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%. "-" indicates no response.

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 30 $50,000-$74,999 39 Hispanics 20
Those aged 25-29 37 Post graduate 23
Those 65 and older 35 Liberals 24
Easterners 34 College graduates 25
Baseball 15 Easterners 21 South 8
Those 30-39 21 Those 65 and older 9
Democrats 20 Republicans 13
College Football 12 College graduates 22 Easterners 3
Southerners 20 African Americans 5
Republicans 19 $35,000 - $49,999 7
Auto Racing 10 Those aged 30-39 14 Hispanics 1
Southerners 13 Those aged 18-24 4
Conservatives 13 College graduates 5

Methodology

This Harris Poll® was conducted online within the United States January 15 and 22, among 2,302 adults (aged 18 and over), of whom 1,562 follow one or more 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.

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About Harris Interactive

Harris Interactive is one of the largest and fastest-growing market research firms in the world. The company provides innovative research, insights and strategic advice to help its clients make more confident decisions which lead to measurable and enduring improvements in performance. Harris Interactive is widely known for The Harris Poll®, one of the longest running, independent opinion polls, and for pioneering online market research methods. The company has built what it believes to be the worlds largest panel of survey respondents, the Harris Poll Online. Harris Interactive serves clients worldwide through its North American, European and Asian offices, and through a global network of independent market research firms. More information about Harris Interactive may be obtained at www.harrisinteractive.com.

To become a member of the Harris Poll Online and be invited to participate in online surveys, register at www.harrispollonline.com.

Harris Interactive Inc. 2/08

Contacts

Press:
Harris Interactive
Tracey McNerney, 585-214-7756

Contacts

Press:
Harris Interactive
Tracey McNerney, 585-214-7756