Sports Poll

| Tom Jensen

PPP’s new national poll finds wide differences in how interested fans are in various professional sports:


% Considering Themselves Fans













For all its recent troubles the NFL remains the only professional sport that a majority of Americans consider themselves to be fans of. MLB comes close at 46% with the NBA also maintaining a substantial level of fan interest at 37%. Golf, the NHL, and Boxing cluster at 22-23% as the sports of least interest among people we polled.

For the most part there aren’t large partisan gaps in what sports people are interested in, with a couple exceptions. 43% of Democrats consider themselves to be NBA fans, while only 26% of Republicans do. On the other side 28% of Republicans identify as golf fans, to just 20% of Democrats. The party gap on NBA fandom is largely a function of the racial divide in interest in the league- 66% of African Americans but only 29% of whites are NBA fans. Tigers Woods hasn’t had too much of a long term effect on the diversity of golf fans- only 10% of African Americans say they’re interested in the sport compared to 26% of whites.

NBA fans are pretty closely divided on who they want to win the league title this year- 19% say they’re pulling for the Warriors to 17% for the Bulls, 15% for the Cavaliers, 12% for the Clippers, 11% for the Hawks, 5% each for the Rockets and Grizzlies, and 4% for the Wizards. That distribution of support is reminiscent of a poll on the Republican Presidential field. People are similarly divided when it comes to who their favorite player in the league is- 19% pick Stephen Curry to 18% for LeBron James, 14% for Kobe Bryant, 13% for Kevin Durant, 10% for Tim Duncan, 5% for Derrick Rose, and 4% each for Dirk Nowitzki and Chris Paul. There’s a political divide with Democrats pulling for the Warriors and saying Curry is their favorite player and Republicans pulling for the Cavaliers and saying James is their favorite player.

There’s no such division when it comes to who NBA fans think is the best player of all time. 77% pick Michael Jordan on that question to only 14% who think it’s LeBron James. In fact despite his being 52 years old, 34% of NBA fans think Jordan could beat James one on one now– as in the year 2015- to just 54% who think James would win despite being in the prime of his career.

The Blackhawks are the preferred team of NHL fans to win the Stanley Cup- 21% say they’re pulling for them to 17% for the Rangers, 10% for the Ducks, and 9% for the Lightning. The teams that lost in the last round (but were still alive when the poll was conducted) all lagged in fan support- 9% were rooting for the Wild, 8% for the Capitals, 6% for the Flames, and 5% for the Canadiens.

We asked baseball fans whether they prefer pitchers hitting or the designated hitter, and pitchers hitting won out by a pretty substantial margin at 55/33. There’s a fair amount of consensus about letting pitchers bat both across party and generational lines.

Golf fans have very different answers when it comes to who their favorite player is and who they think the best player in the world is. On the favorite front Phil Mickelson wins easily with 35% to 16% for Tiger Woods, 15% for Rory McIlroy, 10% for Jordan Spieth, 9% for Jim Furyk, and 6% each for Rickie Fowler and Bubba Watson. On the best player front though McIlroy wins out easily with 38% to 15% each for Spieth and Woods, and 11% for Mickelson with no one else polling over 4%.

There are big political divisions on people’s favorite golfers. Democrats say Woods is their favorite with 30% to 22% for Mickelson, but among Republicans Woods is at just 4% while Mickelson leads the field at 44%. Woods has a 74/19 favorability with Democrats but is at just 36/53 with Republicans. 

It’s safe to say the Mayweather/Pacquiao bout didn’t do much to reinvigorate interest in boxing among the broader American public. 68% of voters say they didn’t care who won the match two weeks ago. Mayweather is not a great face for the sport- only 17% of Americans see him favorably to 39% with an unfavorable opinion. To the extent that they cared voters say they would have preferred Pacquiao win the fight by an 18/13 spread.

Full results here

Related Polls