NFL loses ground to baseball in new Harris Poll

Pro football remains the most popular sport in America, according to a new Harris Poll cited in Tuesday’s SportsBusiness Daily.

In response to a question that eventually could appear in an episode of The Family Feud, 31 percent of those polled said that pro football is their favorite sport.

The bad news?  Pro football has lost four points — a drop of more than 10 percent — in only one year.

Baseball increased from 16 to 17 percent, but it’s a far cry from 1985, when football and baseball were neck-and-neck, at 24 percent and 23, respectively.

Though football still has a commanding lead, the stewards of the game would be wise not to take the public for granted and assume that we/they would still flock to football if there’s a work stoppage.

In this regard, even a lockout that doesn’t result in regular-season games being missed will disrupt the routines of many football fans.  Thus, the sooner this is solved, the better off everyone will be.

60 responses to “NFL loses ground to baseball in new Harris Poll

  1. Dear NFL machine,
    Strike/lockout/whatever and your numbers will drop precipitously.

    Signed 1994 MLB

  2. lost 4 points, but baseball only gained one…to me the other swing points went to the all new catagory…beer pong

  3. The reason baseball has lost popularity since 1985 is because its too watered down…

    Too many teams, too few talented players and too many games to pay attention to…

    Few games are truly relevant until perhaps the end of the season and the playoffs

    The NFL should be wary of expanding the league or number of games – its only going to water down the quality of the game and put the NFL on the same path as MLB

  4. Mike, get the network execs to start putting pressure on these guys! They seem too stupid to realize how much this will impact every aspect of the game.

  5. Do I think a work stoppage would be stupid? Yes.
    Do I want the NFL to play next year? Yes.
    Would I pee my pants and jump for joy if there was a stoppage and then they resumed playing? Yes.

    I don’t care if everyone is overpaid and blah, blah, blah. Football entertains ME. Hell yea, I’d still be dying to see if after they went on strike or whatever. I’d miss it.

    People that wouldn’t watch/go to games on principal after the stoppage ended are morons.

  6. I honestly think the American Public does not want constant change. The NFL continuing to make rule changes in game, schedule changes and over all policy changes every single year will wear down the fan base.

    The NFL needs to have at least a 5 year period of the game staying the same.

  7. Gee, I wonder if it’s got anything to do with Goddell’s ham-handed management of the sport. How many things do I need to list? I mean, we all know that the games don’t sell out like they used to…way too many blacked out.

    How about the stupid excessive celebration penalties? Absurd and unecessary.

    How about 4 preseason games? Nice.

    Noone agreeing on what constitutes a pass catch? Who knows the rules?

    What about his gratuitous and unpredictable fines? It’s out of hand.

    My favorite must be the outrageous change in OT. Yes, since offense must be favored at all times, heaven forbid things get balanced towards D, let’s go ahead and simply change the OT rules for the post-season? Could it be any more arbitrary?

    Where can u hit the QB? oh right, when he runs, he gets to slide…nice touch. The game has too many rules now.

    Instant replay challenges needs to be totally re-thought. Talk about arbitrary… 2 challenges? why? this is tied to time outs?

    Lets slow the frames down a little more so that we’re in a time warp and nothing can be verified. Sweet!

    RG is dismantling this sport. Wish he’d make the game more family-friendly to attend instead of tweaking rules that he doesnt understand.

  8. In response, the NFL has made huge offers to Tim Lincecum and Joe Mauer. “We figure those guys are worth about 10 points apiece”, offered Roger Goodell, “Basically if we sign them we bury baseball for another decade or so.”.

  9. the problem with football is the whining and complaining from the fans and now the players. there should be a gag order on both. as 45 year old fan i feel like anyone over 30 is being pushed out by a fanbase between the ages of 12-25.

  10. Looking at the same poll, hockey has gained 3%. Lots of action, hard physical play, players that can speak in complete sentences and stay humble. What’s not to like? Baseball and football should both learn a lesson.

  11. “In this regard, even a lockout that doesn’t result in regular-season games being missed will disrupt the routines of many football fans. Thus, the sooner this is solved, the better off everyone will be.”

    Not to mention your livelihood, eh boys? I imagine we’ll see many, many more stories on this item for that reason.

  12. I love baseball, I’m a pitcher and left fielder, I love running down deep fly balls in the out field………however I am crazy for football NFL, college, high school, varsity, midget, pee wee, wee pee and peanuts. I’d watch my sisters play if they lined up against each other. Having said that, whatever ground baseball and it’s death march of a droll season think they made up, being so incredibly far behind football (both NFL and College)-who’d notice. The nation would still rather watch exhibition football be it NFL or College than watch the World Series, there’s always a tomorrow in baseball (basketball and hockey), unlike football, one game, one chance, no excuses, you’re either the winner or the loser-that’s reality of life!

  13. I’ve been a football fan all of my life. I’ve only recently discovered baseball… and it’s growing on me.

    Football used to be a blood on your pants, snotty nose, smash the other player, grass stain, kind of sport where players made plays and went back to the huddle.

    Now it’s a freak show of personalities, look at me dance after making a tackle/first down while we’re down by 14, glittery princess helmets (packers), can’t hit the QB, clean pants, whine about fields in the cold kind of league. I mean even the uniforms look like Arena League uniforms.

    In other words it’s turned into the WWE of football. All flash, no substance. I miss my NFL, wherefore art thou……….

  14. Go Reds!

    I can only think of a couple of things that are better than sitting on the back porch, fire in the fire-pit, Reds game on the radio, and a cold beer in my hand, after I just finished eating the steak I grilled while listening to the pre-game show.

    I love baseball.

  15. Maybe it’s because football changes its rules more often than I change socks. Maybe it’s because Goodell is sapping the “Tackle” from Tackle Football”.

    Either way, if the NFL skips a season, so do I coming back. When baseball did it, I took a year off afterwards, and the NFL is no longer special enough to get special treatment.

  16. 2 words Fantasy Football. FF has gotten so many fans to watch football and feel like they are participating. I know this sounds dumb but it is true. I have met so many people who have started to pay attention to football solely on FF. If you take that away, you will lose those fans and those TV ratings. The fans that go to the games will still go, but the ratings and those new fans will drop.

  17. you know it’s possible to be an NFL and an MLB fan.

    To all the MLB insult hurlers out there, let’s see you try to hit a orange sized ball coming at you at 93 mph tailing away to the outside part of the plate.

    or, let’s see you try to field a hot ground ball hit 120 mph on the ground to 3B and throw it across the diamond (if you didn’t run out of the way of it)

    Oh wait.. you don’t “cause you don’t want to”… right? yeah, right.

    Both sports are awesome.

  18. I’ll admit that 1994 was when I stopped watching baseball. And then I realized how dull it was compared to basketball and football and never went back. Football will never be as boring as baseball, but it will create a lot of ill will from fans if there’s any kind of work stoppage. Furthermore, I feel even extending the season to 18 games will create negative fan reactinos; we aren’t the ones clamoring for this change, and the players are clearly concerned about it, so it comes off as nothing but a money grab.

  19. I like that you called this “bad news.” It isn’t bad news to me. I love baseball, and basketball for that matter. I don’t care which sport is the most or least popular. Although I can see why you have would call this “bad news,” because the other versions of this site (Hardball, PBT), are awful compared to this site.

  20. My tastes in car racing tend towards open-wheel cars but I’ll watch NASCAR into November if need be to kill time.

    If the owners want to be stupid, and this whole fight is mostly about the owners being stupid, that’s their business.

    I’ll mind my own; thank you.

    If there’s one thing I’ve learned about life it’s that stupid people can’t be saved from themselves.

  21. I hate to say it, even as a Jets fan, but Antonio Cromartie is right. A work stoppage benefits NOBODY. I am not going to use the same language that he used, but he is right. Stop talking about what they are going to do. Have meetings, and iron it out. It can be done.


    Scary that Cro is the voice of reason

  22. I’ve been an avid NFL fan since 1981. But I just turned 40, and I can totally see myself becoming only a passive sports fan from here on out if there’s a lockout/strike/whatever.

    Don’t piss us off, pro football. We don’t have to come back. I abandoned baseball in 1994; I could very well do the same with football.

  23. Pro football is over. The head injuries, the salaries, the ticket prices, the strike/lock-out…on and on. There is an ebb and flow in the popularity of sports. Baseball in the 40’s-50’s-60s. Football in the 70’s-80’s-90’s-00’s. In 10 years, football will not be as popular as it is today. These are the glory days. The steady decline has already started…

  24. If your team ain’t in it to win it, it gets kind of old watching the Steelers, Patriots, Colts, Ravens, Saints and others battle it out each year.

    There is no parity in the NFL. Same 6 teams every year basically.

  25. Pretty surprising (to me at least) that at 6%, men’s basketball is only 2 points higher than mens soccer (at 4%). Didn’t realize bball was that low.

  26. @ Hairpie – you point out an issue that isn’t just limited to NFL or sports themselves. Good observation..

  27. Like the comment about baseball being too watered down. The way the NFL schedule is structured is beautiful. It’s packaged so that we have all week to discuss every game and it makes us anticipate the games. With baseball, there’re more games than we can watch. Having a week between games is a real positive for the NFL.

  28. The big problem here is that DeMaurice Smith is not a football guy, he is a labor relations guy. He doesn’t care about the popularity of one sport over another. He will sacrifice the these players to further his own agenda, like all union leaders. These aren’t your daddy’s unions today. There is a much bigger picture for people like Smith and it’s all about Smith. The players need to wise up, boot this guy, he’s going to set this league back tremendously and in the end the players will settle for what the owners are offering now.

  29. The NFL will lose a lot more ground if there is no football next year, which I unfortunately suspect will be the case.

    Look what happened to MLB after he ’94 strike. The drop off in interest was substantial, it took about 4 years for MLB to regain its previous stature, and even that was due in large part to a huge increase in steroids which was ignored for a good 7-8 years. That era is now frowned upon as the “steroid era” and is a black mark upon MLB. Lots of unintended consequences. The owners and players had better tread very lightly.

    Overall though I think the NHL has the most to gain from a potential labor stoppage. Fast paced, physical, and its season overlaps most of the footbal season and beyond.

  30. These changes do not seem statistically significant. I don’t think you can take much away from the year over year change here. Revisiting post lock-out would be most interesting…

  31. Baseball is only fun when you go to the game… watching it on TV is SOOOOO boring!!! I think the reason baseball may be getting better stats is cause it is CHEAPER to go to a baseball game. Football tickets are SOOOO expensive it is ridiculous!!

  32. People, by nature, are a creature of habit. As football fans we have become accustomed to watching NFL games on Sunday. With that said, if there is a work stoppage, it will suck for a while but people will eventually get over it and find something else to do with their time. Much like I did when MLB and the NBA went on strike. It took me a good ten plus years to even get remotely interested in baseball again. And I still haven’t really gotten into the NBA yet. This is why the NFL must avoid a lockout. People will just find other habits to do and will stick to them…..even when/if the NFL does return.

  33. They better get the Ref’s out of these games as well, the out comes of way to many games are being decided by the Ref’s these days. I am not paying my money to have the games decided by old Fat men that do not play the game.

    I was talking with the Family the other day about just how much money we give the NFL. From our Season Tickets for the entire Family. The Direct TV Season Pass every year, the Internet NFL Replay to all the Gear it adds up.

    We use to never miss games but now find ourselves playing 18 Holes on Game Days or shutting off Sunday and Monday Night Football to go see a Movie. Tell those new all Business type owners, you know the Non Football Type to watch what they hope for.

    They should kiss the ground that Al Davis, Mara, Rooney and the REAL FOOTBALL OWNERS walk on. It is them that has allowed you Greedy Types to come in and Rape the Game for a Dollar.

  34. goodguyjohn says:
    Jan 25, 2011 2:45 PM
    If your team ain’t in it to win it, it gets kind of old watching the Steelers, Patriots, Colts, Ravens, Saints and others battle it out each year.

    There is no parity in the NFL. Same 6 teams every year basically.
    Saints? They’ve made the playoffs like 5 or 6 years in their entire 44 year existance. They aren’t a mainstay in the playoffs.

    There is a lot more parody in the NFL then there used to be. The fact that 10 different teams in the last 10 years made the superbowl in the NFC makes that a fact. I think the AFC has more mainstays than the NFC. Every year it is a crap shoot whereas the AFC always has Colts, Pitt, Ravens and NE. They seem to be the only real mainstays. The Saints are not a team I would consider as making the playoffs every year. Maybe lately (3 out of 4) but look at the record books prior to that.

  35. “I like that you called this “bad news.” It isn’t bad news to me. I love baseball, and basketball for that matter. I don’t care which sport is the most or least popular.”
    This is “bad news” for F–rio because he (and some of his minions) are “too cool” for baseball and have this bizarre insecurity that prevents them from acknowledging the popularity or relevance of other sports.

    Like somehow it’s more interesting or entertaining to be doing mock drafts than watching March Madness or dissecting training camp than watching baseball. Lame.

  36. Ah, fun with statistics. One quick question, with a followup question to keep the post moving along:

    When was this poll taken? Was it taken recently, when a lot of casual NFL fans had their teams out of contention, but as casual baseball fans were looking forward to a new season? I have a feeling that the timing of the poll goes a long way to determine the outcome.

    However, if the poll was taken recently, it’s a testament to the dominance of football (pro and college), because the numbers in August would likely be much higher.

  37. Baseball season is too long and MLB lost me after the 1994 strike. I can watch college basketball from November to April if the NFL does a strike/lockout and the weather is good up to that point, anyway. Not to mention I can watch the CFL online from July to November. True, it’s not NFL caliber but it can be exciting. Fact is, I can live without the NFL–and I’ll probably watch it again after they get the CBA done.

    Owners/players: Get the CBA done and let’s not interrupt the 2011 season!

    Question: Why again won’t the owners use replacement players?

  38. With the tough economic times very few people will be having any sympathy for billionaire owners and greedy players. Learn from baseball and what happened during 1994. Get the CBA done.

  39. Roger Goodell can claim this as his legacy… from the inconsistent application of personal conduct policy (see Favre incident) to the unfair/inconsistent fines in the name of “player safety” he has damaged the league’s image in the eyes of the public.

  40. I’m a football junkie, been since I was 11-12, watched first NFL draft @ age 13. NFL is #1 with college football a close #1A, to me. Heck, there’s a chance I’ll be out on the unemployment line if I keep getting caught off-task hanging out on PFT.

    Looking over the poll numbers, I’m not at all surprised of the responses. Compared to the the other sports seasons that interest, or somewhat, interest me (Baseball and auto racing), the NFL has it perfect. The length of the season is primo, and leaves you wanting more, and that’s a great feeling. I’m still a big baseball fan, nothing like a summer night @ the ball park, but the season (and, now, the post-season) extend way too long (The Phillies playing the World Series in the snow in 2008 was ridiculous). Auto racing, specifically NASCAR, is the same way. That season is way too drawn-out, amongst many other issues. I’ll still passively follow it until pre-season starts, but once week 1 begins, I won’t watch a single race.

    Even college football is too drawn out. I honestly forgot when the BCS title game was being played.

    I will agree with what’s been said by a few. The seemingly constant rule changing and tinkering is bad for business. Don’t water down the product with endless rule changes and additional games. Don’t take for granted, NFL, the awesome prosperity the league has enjoyed.

  41. Based on the legal mumbo-jumbo below, you can infer that Harris Poll took no actions to quantify or estimate whether the people they permitted to take this poll are representative of the American populace as a whole.

    If this “poll” took too many participants from Los Angeles or Anaheim, it would be no surprise to find them as more adept to select baseball as their top sport since their is no local NFL franchise.

    It’s a statistically insignificant poll that doesn’t deserve the bandwidth it has generated.

    From Harris Poll:

    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.

  42. There are two clear messages here for both the owners and the players:

    1) You’re not as far ahead in popularity as you all think you are, and a work stoppage would clearly tip the scale in another sport’s direction

    2) Look how long it has taken MLB to even APPROACH being even with football again, and the numbers are LOWER for both sports now.

    Get a deal done BEFORE there is a work stoppage, for your OWN sakes, morons.

  43. im going to take this a step further and say we live in a culture where its easier to blame refs, or call the other team cheaters than it is to look at yourself and perhaps criticize your own work ethic and/or preparation. i find football on the most part to be a joyless experience now. as a Pats fan i can say the more successful your team is, the less fun it actually is to be a fan and try and discuss the finer points of the sport with other fans.

  44. I haven’t watched baseball since they cancelled teh World Series due to the strike.

    World War II couldn’t stop the World Series but greed sure did.

    Why in the world a bunch of billionaires and millionaires can’t work something out is ridiculous.

    They all need to sit back and realize just how damn lucky they are in the first place and let us smucks enjoy our football.

  45. Baseball is a joke with no salary cap. Can not believe anybody cares.
    If for example you are a Royal or Pirate fan why bother?
    The Yankees and Red Sox just use other teams has their triple A .

  46. duffer58:

    If I’m a Royal or a Pirate fan, I root for them not to finish last.

    It was good enough for Pirate fans in the 1950s, when they finished either last or next-to-last in the NL for eight years in a row.

    And no one in Pittsburgh whined about “salary caps” or “competitive balance” back then; of course, in those days the fans were of The Greatest Generation, not The Me Generation.

    As for bringing up the Yankees and the Red Sox: Envy is one of the seven deadly sins for a reason.

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