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.