Fifty-five percent of US adults follow professional football, according to Harris Poll data released in October 2011. Broken down demographically, poll results show men and blacks are the groups most likely to be pro football followers.
Looking at gender differences, poll data indicates 71% of men but only 41% of women follow pro football. The other demographic breakdown that produces a similar disparity is analysis by ethnic group. This reveals that 72% of blacks, but only 54% of whites and 51% of Hispanics, follow pro football.
Differences are much less pronounced by age group and region of country. By age, Echo Boomers (18-34) are about 10% less likely than Gen X (35-46) and Baby Boomers (46-65) to follow pro football, with Matures (66 and up) having almost the same rate as the two generations behind them, while residents of the West (49%) are roughly 15% less likely than residents of the Midwest and East (58%) and 12% less likely than residents of the South (56%) to be pro football followers.
Cowboys Still ‘America’s Team’
The Dallas Cowboys have long had the nickname “America’s Team,” and backed it up by having the most adults who follow professional football rank them as their first or second favorite team for the fifth straight year. Going back to 1998, the Cowboys have ranked first in this metric eight times (including a tie with the Green Bay Packers in 2003), come in second three times and ranked fourth just once, in 2002.
Certain teams have moved up or down more than others this year. Some of the largest movers this year include:
- The Detroit Lions moved up 11 places on the list from number 30 last year to number 19 this year;
- The Miami Dolphins moved up eight places from a tie for number 21 to number 13;
- The Oakland Raiders dropped eight places, from a tie at number 17 to number 25;
- Two teams moved up seven places each – The Washington Redskins, from number 15 to number eight, and the New York Jets, from number 16 to a tie for number nine; and,
- Two teams dropped six places each – the New Orleans Saints, from number five to number 11, and the Arizona Cardinals, from number 11 to a tie with the Denver Broncos at number 17.
For the third year in a row, the Jacksonville Jaguars are at the bottom of the list.
Football Interest Reaches 20-Year High
The 55% of US adults following professional football is the highest percentage doing so since 1992, when 49% of adults followed pro football. The percentage has not fallen below 50% since 2007 (49%), and since 1992 has not dropped any lower than 46% (1993). Of the 17 years since 1992 the Harris Poll has asked this question, the percentage of adults following pro football has been 50% or higher in 10 of them.
Football Remains #1 US Sport
Three in 10 Americans who follow at least one sport (31%) say professional football is their favorite sport, while 17% say baseball, according to results of a January 2011 Harris Poll. This is a narrowing of the gap from last year when over one-third (35%) of sports fans said professional football was their favorite sport and 16% said it was baseball.
There are some fluctuations in favorites during the years. Since this question was first asked in 1985, professional football has gone up seven points from 24% of sports fans saying it was their favorite sport then to 31% saying so now. Baseball, on the other hand, has gone down six points from 23% in 1985 to 17% today.
About the Data: This Harris Poll was conducted online within the US from September 12 to 19, 2011 among 2,462 adults (aged 18 and up), of whom 1,361 follow professional football. 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.