OT: Sports fans, especially college football fans, are more likely to be Republican

Submitted by Drill on April 1st, 2010 at 3:28 PM
So says a new study (I'm assuming this is not an April Fool's Joke; it came out last night).


Some of the results are not that surprising to me (WNBA and MLS fans are Democrat, NASCAR and golf fans are republican), but I was quite surprised at how Republican the results for college football are.



April 1st, 2010 at 3:41 PM ^

I don't think the OP was strickly speaking politics, he was referencing a chart which is kind-of interesting. He didn't advocate one thing or the other, just put up something to ponder over.

I was surprised that the Monster Trucks and WWE were on the democrat side, not really what I would have expected. hmmm.

Space Coyote

April 1st, 2010 at 3:36 PM ^

There are a lot of college football fans in the south and Southeast, which are mostly republican. Even big ten country is about 50/50. However, New York and the rest of the Northeast doesn't care about college football much, and if their team isn't good, California doesn't really care. There goes much of the democratic vote.

Whereas the NBA is huge in New York and Cali when the Lakers are good, but the southeast, and really, for the most part, is far less important even in big ten country and in the plains all the way down to Texas.

The real question is, what are WNBA fans, Communist or something. Damn they are way left. I guess women's basketball is really popular in Russia, maybe they are sticking to their USSR roots


April 1st, 2010 at 3:38 PM ^

The NHL is the one that surprises me, demographics wise.

College football shouldn't surprise you too much: it's biggest in the South and Great Plains. Which: look at an electoral map, you know?


April 1st, 2010 at 4:12 PM ^

I don't know about that. For whatever reason, hockey has a hard time appealing to people who don't actually play the sport themselves. And hockey's an expensive sport to play. Working-class people often can't afford all the equipment. A lot of rich suburban districts have launched hockey programs recently; poorer ones, not so much.

(Not to mention that hockey fans have got to be at least 95% white.)


April 1st, 2010 at 9:40 PM ^

I cover hockey -- for all the expense of the equipment, it is still pretty blue collar, and was historically insular among this group because it was played by their parents. However, it has been growing A LOT in the last 20 years among upper middle class areas.

The 2010 USA hockey team was filled with these types of more privileged boys who took advantage of our country's revamped development program. In Detroit, the success of the Red Wings in this time has markedly increased interest in hockey. An entire generation has grown up with the Wings the top sports draw in the region.

These areas are the proud owners of fancy new hockey rinks, their kids proud owners of fancy new hockey bags. It has created a little bit of tenseness, actually -- the type you can imagine when the cast from Slapshot meets the cast of American Pie -- but all things considered, it's been a smooth transition. I think most hockey fans are happy to have more hockey fans.

It is a transition that has been mirrored in the Democratic Party.

I'm going to say all of this without passing judgment either way on any of these views, just present some observations and relate them back to sports. If you think I stepped over the line here, or my generalizations are too gross, I can fully appreciate that.

If you're going just by 2000, 2004 and 2008 elections, which may not be the best judge but at least passes the face test, on average, Democratic voters had more money than Republicans.

I'm going off of info I got while covering the last couple elections, so I'm very open to anyone who has better, but essentially, the shift first started during the 2000 election, when the wooden character of Vice President Gore versus the "I'd have a beer with him" appeal of then Governor Bush, combined with their conservative social leanings, opened the door for a lot of the lower middle class to go Republican.

During President Bush's first term, political divisions sharpened dramatically (I don't think anyone denies this, right?) and this was largely along social issues. The right made huge gains among the rural and religious, and on a tax form these look like low- and middle-low income people. Meanwhile, in 2004 the Kerry campaign reinforced the 2000 message that the Democrats were the "intellectual" party, which appealed to the Upper Middle Class, who are generally liberal on social issues. So long as the Democrats didn't appear to fiscally left, the re-branding worked.

A good place to see this transition is in the Michigan 9th (formerly 11th), which used to be one of the biggest GOP strongholds in the country throughout the 20th century (had just one 2-year term of a Democrat since the Great Depression), but elected a Democrat, Gary Peters, in 2008. This is Birmingham, and Troy, and West Bloomfield we're talking about: predominantly white, upper middle class, Michigan football's primary financial base. It went Blue.

I can only imagine how this shift is playing havoc with sports fandom, but a quick guess would be that as the "blue collar" crowd shifted red in '90s and double-aughts, and the upper-middle class office-types shifted blue, this made the generally socially conservative wide world of sports more Republican.

However, the conservatism of sports was never really in doubt -- a ton more kids go to school in suburban and rural areas than urban, and also you have that whole post-1960s female shift to liberal which is inversely represented in predominantly male samples, e.g. sports fans. And it passes the face test: could you imagine the backlash of Tim Tebow walking into an office environment, or a classroom of a public university (both generally liberal strongholds) and suggesting everyone stop what they're doing to offer a prayer? But then this is completely unremarkable in a high school locker room.


April 1st, 2010 at 3:50 PM ^

...graphic representation is that the bright red/blue is based on the Y axis vice the X axis. That is, the impression is that those sports that fall on the positive side of Y and either side of X suggest high correlation between sport interest and political party allegiance. The fact is that anything that falls between -20 and 20 on the X axis can hardly be called overwhelmingly D or R. Those results should be purplish and things to the left and right should get progressively (no pun intended) blue and red respectively.


April 1st, 2010 at 3:57 PM ^

...voting frequency. That is, a measure of party affiliation. If you say you lean D or R, but you don't vote often, you're not a reliable vote. If you say you lean D or R, but you say you vote often, you are.


April 1st, 2010 at 4:31 PM ^

...of the bubble. Larger bubble, more responses indicating interest in the sport. Bubble size is a measure of all respondents indicating interest regardless of party affiliation or voting frequency.

X position is a measure of the delta between D and R leaners (many more D leaners results in a position further to the left; many more R leaners results in a position further to the right; about equal D:R results in a position toward the middle).

Y position is a measure of the delta between high and low frequency voters (higher on the chart means most of the respondents are high frequency voters; lower on the chart means most of the respondents are low frequency voters; about equal high frequency:low frequency voters results in a position toward the middle).

Any sport that falls within -20 to 20 on the X axis is pretty purple in reality. That's why the NFL and MLB are almost smack dab in the middle. There's very little correlation between party affiliation and these sports because of their broad appeal across the populace.

College Football looks like an outlier, except that you have to recall that affluence and party affiliation are highly correlated. Higher education level and affluence are obviously correlated. The percentage of persons with one college degree who follow college football is likely very high. I'd guess that goes for those with a masters/professional degree as well. The percentage of persons with some college who follow college football is probably a little lower. Those with HS only, probably somewhat lower. Those without a HS diploma, lower still. Hence, larger delta between R and D for College Football.


April 1st, 2010 at 4:42 PM ^

After the countless fictions heaped upon the public by the previous administration, your comment is sheer comedy. Seriously. See:
1. Iraq has WMD
2. Saddam Hussein was in cahoots with al-Qaeda
3. Waterboarding is not torture
4. Warrantless wiretapping is constitutional
5. U.S. attorneys were not fired for political reasons
6. Abstinence-only sex education is effective
7. The Bush administration had nothing to do with the outing of undercover CIA agent Valerie Plame

Zone Left

April 1st, 2010 at 6:01 PM ^

Yeah, I'd probably tend to agree with you on a lot of your leanings, but the outright commentary isn't going to go well here--fortunately. It's really nice that the mods aren't going to let this sink into a political quagmire in late October/early November at election time.


April 2nd, 2010 at 9:13 AM ^

While I noticed Obama sounded kind of like The Rock as soon as I heard him speak, and fantasized about him parodying "what Barack was cookin'," I'm afraid it's the man himself that brought it to fruition.

(McCain and Hilary are in there too with equally cringe-worthy lines...except "McCainiacs," that's awesome)


April 1st, 2010 at 5:35 PM ^

Part of the reason is the aforementioned youth followers, but I also think that wrestling has experienced a surge recently in terms of non-white wrestlers becoming prominent involved in the storylines (think the Rock, 3D, Shelton Benjamin, Kingston, Lashley, etc.), and that has probably helped to draw a more diverse fanbase.


April 1st, 2010 at 7:51 PM ^

If you get an answer, let me know.

Misopogal loves WWE, and is left of me. I don't get it at all.

Years ago, there was a fantastic article on ESPN Page 2 (I'll go looking for it) that talked about how football functions on a liberal plane, but has a conservative heart. In order to be successful at it, you need to be the master of both.

To put a pinky toe into political waters, that resonates strongly with me: that both conservative and liberal offer valuable core lessons that are needed for success (obviously if you think that one or the other or both are useless then you should stop reading now).

Maybe that's why I like football so much, particularly college football. On one side, you've got the tradition and the pageantry and the connection to history and fundamentals and sticking with your team and your buddies no matter what, all core conservative principles. And you've got the high-tech, the cerebral, the scientific, the quick adaptation, and the will to question and change that which has brought you success in the past, in a word, liberal.

Where else than in football do you see these both walking hand-in-hand? Where else than in football do you find the paradox of a guy like Lloyd Carr, a political liberal, who could be so mind-numbingly conservative on the field, versus the avowed conservative Rodriguez whose brand of football is decidedly liberal.

Anyway, I don't have much else to offer on this than it's probably some pretty bad sampling bias -- sports fandom is based very strongly on geography, and this seems to reflect it. If you polled hockey fans, I bet they drink a lot more Molsen and Labatt than NASCAR, but this doesn't necessarily mean there's a causal relationship between sport and beer choice.


April 1st, 2010 at 4:16 PM ^

I'm not surprised. Think about it on a philosophical level. Sports isn't equal-outcome. There are winners and losers. Some guys get more playing time than others. Sports teams aren't representative of society at large (when's the last time you saw a team that was 66% white, 15% Hispanic, 13% black, 5% Asian and 1% Native American?) and don't aim to be. As sports fans, we accept these things. We accept that sports aren't always fair or equitable. Aren't sports kind of a metaphor for the free-market economic system we have?