Gallup poll shows football overwhelmingly Americans’ favorite sport

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Despite a recent decline, football remains Americans’ favorite sport.

Gallup has been asking Americans for 80 years the question, “What is your favorite sport to watch?” In the most recent poll, conducted last month, football was on top with 37 percent. Football has been on top every time Gallup has conducted that poll for half a century.

Basketball is now in second place, at 11 percent, followed by baseball at 9 percent and soccer at 7 percent. Given the poll’s 5 percent margin of error, those three sports could all be viewed as a tie for second place. Hockey is at 4 percent, auto racing and tennis each at 2 percent and no other sport got more than 1 percent.

Football has declined a bit, down from a high of 43 percent in 2007. But football hasn’t declined anywhere near as much as baseball, which was as high as 39 percent in 1948 and has declined since. Baseball’s 9 percent was its lowest share of the American fan base since Gallup began the poll in 1937, and demographic trends strongly suggest that baseball will continue to decline, as its strongest support comes from fans 55 and older and lowest support comes in fans aged 18 to 34.

Football does best among middle-aged fans and isn’t quite as popular among fans 18 to 34. But even 30 percent of 18-to-34-year-olds call football their favorite sport, which gives football more support in that age group than baseball, basketball and soccer combined.

So although football has declined, it’s a moderate decline that still leaves it on top. The NFL has to be concerned about that decline continuing or even growing at a faster pace, but for now the league has to be pleased to be at the top of American sports.

60 responses to “Gallup poll shows football overwhelmingly Americans’ favorite sport

  1. Which is why the NFL loses viewers when it puts out a product that looks less and less like football and more and more like an astroturfed Resistance rally.

  2. I thought everyone hated football now because some of the players didn’t agree with their pet political agendas?

  3. This is bad news for the many who frequent this site who are so anxious to punish the sport itself for perceived wrongs against their team and/or their freedom, somehow.

  4. People will always love the sport of Football. The NFL may lose popularity but the sport itself won’t. I don’t care if we’re talking Pee Wee, High School or Arena League, Football is a great sport. I feel like Jon Gruden right now

  5. Did they get more specific? Football is played at the Pro, multiple College and HS levels. I question if the TV ratings are down for Prime Time College FB. Some people love college but not the NFL, some guys just love going to the local HS and small-college games in the fall. FB is in great shape, except the NFL, which is dealing with some self-inflicted issues that have turned some fans away.

  6. Concussions, other safety concerns, and the lack of millennials interest in anything not viewable on their phones will continue to erode football’s popularity over the foreseeable future.

  7. Imagine that! Well if football is the most popular sport, it must take an absolute “stable genius” to bankrupt an entire football league.

  8. This will not stop people from warping things to fit their own personal reality. Which is perfectly fine as long as they understand the rest of us don’t live their own personal reality.

  9. what’s nascar? whats baseball? What Egg ball? aka football lol. lets all say Barcelona the best most expensive team in the work and most known along with they players.

  10. Viewership ebbs and flows, it’s not going to increase forever. It’ll go up and down, we’re in a downswing at the moment, I’d imagine largely due to more and more people streaming it illegal but it’ll go up again in a few years or so, fans acting like it’s the end of the world are just over-dramatising it.

    Is there issues with the game? Yes of course, there always has been and always will but this notion that the nfl is driving away fans in droves is ridiculous

  11. For those that chose Football it would be interesting to see which they preferred…The NFL or college football. I suspect the answer is somewhat regional and I am also willing to bet that the percentage that prefer the college game is growing.

  12. One of the huge reasons for the drop in baseball interest among younger fans is tied to Selig’s steroid witch hunt. He was so clumsy with his crusade that an entire generation of people (under 35) just assume everyone is cheating, so there’s no reason to watch. The amount of games and the incredibly boring gameplay also hurry the sport. Football is the most exciting due to its physicality, short season, and parity. With a few moves at the right positions, teams can go from worst to first much easier in football. Even if your team is bad, the FO can right the ship quickly.

  13. Goodell will probably get credit for this…something that’s been going for generations. Its Americans favorite sport IN SPITE of Goodell’s poor leadership.

  14. I believe it – I know I was talking to my sons the other day, both in their 20’s, and they told me how they had both received calls on their landline phones from gallup and they sat in the kitchen while reading the boxscores in the newspaper and watching the evening news on tv.

    not saying this isn’t true but these polls anymore are useless.

  15. I’m not a math wizard, but you state “Football has declined a bit, down from a high of 43 percent in 2007. But football hasn’t declined anywhere near as much as baseball, which was as high as 39 percent in 1948 and has declined since.” So football has dropped from 43 down to 11 (difference of 32) since 2007 and baseball has dropped from 39 down to 9 (difference of 30) since 1948. So it would seem to me, football would have a greater drop being 32 is more than 30, as well as that drop happening over eleven years for football vesus SEVENTY years for baseball! Yeah that drop of 32 for football is “no where near” as much as the baseball 30 drop! Love the spin though.

  16. Thank you for providing this information. Opinions are great and we all have fun with them, but opinions are opinions and facts are facts. I’ll watch the World Series and maybe the final game of the NBA Finals (the entire series if LeBron is playing). I’ll watch a little golf (a lot when Tiger is playing), no soccer. I watch as much NFL football as I can. When I’m not watching football, I’m usually reading PFT.

  17. Ah perhaps “football” is the favorite sport, however the NFL is not the favorite means to watch football.

  18. Whatever you think about the peripheral issues, football is flat out the best sport out there. The game just rocks. The only reason baseball was ever more popular is because it came first, but it was only a matter of time before football surpassed it in popularity.

    The biggest thing that truly threatens football is the concussion problem. That’s a serious, hard-to-solve situation that directly impacts the course of a game and a season.

    Honorable mention to playoff hockey, which is sadly underrated and insanely intense. There’s almost nothing in all of sports that compares to it. Too bad it’s not on TV more.

  19. Its’ true, I love college football. Only day of the week I now carve out to watch football is Saturday, but I also don’t mind a good Wednesday or Thursday college match-up.

  20. Erm.. The poll asked “What is your favorite sport to follow?” NOT “What is your favorite LEAGUE to follow?”. A perfect example of why the poll is correct lies in the growing College Football viewership numbers and the declining NFL numbers. People still overwhelmingly like to watch football, they’re just sick of the NFL version of it!

  21. Florioismyhero – read that piece again. The decline is from 43% to 37%. The only time 11% comes up is when he talks about basketball being second at 11%. A 26% gap is enormous when put in perspective.

    On another note, the perceived decline reminds me of The Walking Dead. People will exaggerate and say football and TWD viewership are falling off of a cliff, when they couldn’t be more wrong. Both are still the top viewed programs on all of television. They set the standard so high, that losing a few percentage points still keeps them atop the proverbial mountain, but people still swear that “no one” watches them anymore.

  22. Florioismyhero says:
    January 10, 2018 at 10:49 am
    I’m not a math wizard, but you state “Football has declined a bit, down from a high of 43 percent in 2007. But football hasn’t declined anywhere near as much as baseball, which was as high as 39 percent in 1948 and has declined since.” So football has dropped from 43 down to 11 (difference of 32) since 2007 and baseball has dropped from 39 down to 9 (difference of 30) since 1948. So it would seem to me, football would have a greater drop being 32 is more than 30,…

    —-

    Umm… What? Did you read the article?? Directly from the article; “In the most recent poll, conducted last month, football was on top with 37 percent…. Football has declined a bit, down from a high of 43 percent in 2007.”

    Now, I’m no math wizard either but that’s a difference of 6 percent. I have no idea where you got 11 percent from, other than basketball was polled at 11 percent.

  23. You B. Crazy says:
    January 10, 2018 at 10:30 am
    One of the huge reasons for the drop in baseball interest among younger fans is tied to Selig’s steroid witch hunt.
    ——-
    Yeah that or you are literally spending 3.5 hours just watching men stand on grass for 98% of the time while announcers keep your faced glued to the screen with important facts like what an x-player that died 50 years ago did for fun in the offseason and what color the green monster was before it was green. It’s intense, i don’t understand how anyone can look away. So one of the two reasons.

  24. So football has dropped from 43 down to 11 (difference of 32) since 2007 and baseball has dropped from 39 down to 9 (difference of 30) since 1948.

    ___

    Go back and read the article again.

    Football is at 37%, its basketball thats at 11%. Football only dropped 6%.

  25. Would be nice to see the shares spread across football platforms. Major college football has to hold a pretty big chunk of the 18-34 year old crowd, considering a quarter of them are college aged kids.

  26. “Imagine that! Well if football is the most popular sport, it must take an absolute “stable genius” to bankrupt an entire football league.”

    And/or a casino.

  27. If football is only popular with 30% of younger fans then the NFL should be quite concerned. Dropping from 43% to 37% and eventually, 30% is a huge revenue decline.
    When the next TV contract comes up I hope the salary cap declines.

  28. polls are so reliable. just look at the last presidential election. the democratic candidate had more than a 75% chance of winning according to most of
    the polls. what happened to the poll a few months ago that showed nfl as last among major sports leagues in popularity?

  29. The same Gallup pollsters predicted Hillary by 10 Points…missed it by a MILE & then some!!!

    Polls always portray what they are paid to “confirm”. They are being paid to ask a question, but the wording of the question & the pool of respondents is structured to ALWAYS weight the argument towards the desired result. Then with that desired result “confirmed”, it becomes propaganda to promote the narrative of those paying for the poll to be conducted. Accurate polls are a failed business model, because those bankrolling the big expense only have 1 reason to do so…and that is marketing.

  30. bystanderhere says:
    January 10, 2018 at 11:55 am
    Expect the Association Football (a.k.a. Soccer in the USA) to make significant advances within the next 10-15 years.
    ———–
    Well theres a hot take that hasnt been said over and over and over for decades and decades. I’ve been hearing kickball was going to take over the US for my entire life, never happens because no matter how exiting you people claim it is still just an extremely slow motion version of hockey without the violence. But who doesnt want to sit around for 4 hours and hope someone scores a point.

  31. tampabayirish says:
    January 10, 2018 at 10:30 am
    For those that chose Football it would be interesting to see which they preferred…The NFL or college football. I suspect the answer is somewhat regional and I am also willing to bet that the percentage that prefer the college game is growing.
    —————–
    excellent point. I’d also add high school football to the equation, I live in Dallas and I’d say outside the DFW metroplex, high school football is king.

  32. THIS IS A NO BRAINER. The fatal flaw in baseball and basketball is their greed has led them to include far too many games in their schedule that actual has little impact on who makes the playoffs-UNLIKE FOOTBALL!!! Every game matters significantly. They only play once a week and it is thrilling, physical, and strategic (which we all can get involved and comment on the decision making).

    Not until baseball and basketball figure out how to reduce the games or make each one matter more will people tune in to watch. I mean the excitement of the NCAA championship is wonderful-cause every game matters!

  33. Football is just fun to watch. If I sit down with the family to watch basketball, they get up and leave after five minutes. It looks like they do the same thing over and over again. When I sit down with the family to watch baseball, they fall asleep. When I try to explain all the intricacies of they game, they say that’s not very entertaining. Basketball killed the sport by not insisting that the great players go to college, so they get to the pros and can’t read or write. Great role models. Baseball has all these stupid unwritten rules. You have to be careful not to smile after hitting a home run. You can’t steal a base with a 6 run lead. Or is it a seven run lead? What, then they’re going to throw at a guy’s head? What a bunch of idiots. Then they’re so macho, they don’t even shake hands after a game. Real tough guys. Football players are tough guys and gentleman. Most are college educated and great role models.

  34. The players have helped to force me to take a long hard look at sports entertainment. I no longer wear any team gear, will never go to a game again, and I only watch my team, not even the other teams in the our division. Thats it, and the players are responsible.

  35. Yes, thank you for catching my mistake…I was looking at the basketball at 11. My bad. It’s still apples to oranges when comparing something that took 70 years vs something that took 11 years. What was the drop in baseball 11 years after it’s highest rating? THAT would be comparable, not comparing what it is now.

  36. I’m surprised baseball is lower than basketball, and that hockey is not more popular.

    ___

    Basketball is much more exciting to watch than baseball.

    Hockey is almost a fringe sport. Its popular in those cities with teams and the northeast. Not popular in the rest of the country, unless you are a transplant from a hockey city…..

  37. Soccer will eventually win out. Simplicity of entry, price point to play and world staying power (not to mention world advertising power). What’s the most common sport kids are playing in North America right now? Soccer. It may take another generation, but soccer is the sport of the future.

    I’m not saying football will die, but in another 20 years, I wouldn’t be surprised to see soccer crowding it out as this young generation grows up, has real talent, and becomes household names. Not just one or two Donovan’s, Dempsey’s or Howard’s. but 15 or 20 of them that will generate the ad revenue and the name power to propel them worldwide.

  38. Football is, without any doubt, the best sport… and thank you for no longer calling it soccer 😉

  39. Soccer is more popular than NASCAR and hockey?!?
    Soccer is an hour of a bunch of guys kicking a ball back and forth without ever scoring. Plus they’re all a bunch of whiny crybabies falling to the ground when they’ve barely been touched (if at all).
    I don’t buy it. Let’s see the ratings differences instead of some stupid poll.

  40. If baseball shrunk from 162 games to 16 games and 1 pitcher (similar to qb in nfl), I think it would be more fanatical than what it is now.

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