National Survey By Public Policy Polling Reveals Data That Tells Many Stories, Part 1

By Jared Max
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Earlier this month, Public Policy Polling conducted a national survey that asked 28 questions regarding Americans’ interest in sports. The survey revealed data that told many stories. Some were enlightening. Others predictable. Some puzzling.

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The PPP survey focused on admiration versus dislikability among particular sports and individual players. Understandably, contrasts are sharp based on age, race and political ideology.

Yellow highlighter in hand, I spent several hours studying the results. I drew attention to numbers that told obvious stories. I looked for disparities between general averages and each demographic. I calculated numbers to better understand the actual sample sizes. I cross-referenced data to help draw conclusions. Still, there were times I was left wondering, “Why is that?”

Compartmentalized survey results by sport or topic are listed below this collection of intriguing nuggets gleaned from the PPP sports survey:

— Twice as many Hispanics (78%) as African Americans (39%) identified as MLB fans

— NBA fans are significantly more concentrated among African Americans (66%) and Hispanics (59%) than whites (29%)

— Nearly twice as many Hispanics (39%) identified themselves as NHL fans over African Americans (21%) and whites (20%)

— 27% more men identified as NFL fans than women — the greatest disparity in sports interest between genders

— In one of the survey’s greatest landslides, 41% of those who want the New York Rangers to win the Stanley Cup labeled themselves “very liberal”

— Conversely, 29% of NHL fans rooting for the Chicago Blackhawks to win the Stanley Cup are at the right wing, self-labeled ”very conservative”

— Overall, NHL fans are rooting for the Blackhawks (21%) over the Rangers (17%) to win the Cup

— 34% of NBA fans said that Michael Jordan — at his present age, 52 — would beat LeBron James today in a game of 1-on-1

— Slightly more NBA fans declared Stephen Curry (19%) their favorite player over LeBron (18%)

— Among NBA fans, not one person who identified as “somewhat liberal” picked Dirk Nowitzki as his or her “favorite player”

— James Harden registered a significantly greater divide over any NBA player in “favorable” ratings between voters of Barack Obama (40%) and Mitt Romney (22%)

— Hispanic golf fans (30%) selected Rickie Fowler as their favorite player over seven other golfers

— Among golf fans aged 18-29, not one person selected Tiger Woods as his or her favorite golfer, or, as the world’s best golfer

— While Phil Mickelson was a runaway champ in the “Favorite Golfer” category (35%), he was a distant 4th to Rory McIlroy (38%) in the “Best Golfer” question.

— Mickelson scored his largest “favorable” rating among African American golf fans (94%); not one African American cited Mickelson “unfavorable”

— Significantly more MLB fans voted for pitchers (55%) than designated hitters (33%) to bat

— MLB fans 66+ substantially represent the smallest age group that prefers pitchers to hit instead of designated hitters

— 68% of all surveyed said they did not care who won the Floyd Mayweather/Manny Pacquiao match

— Only 17% of all surveyed stated a favorable opinion about Mayweather, compared to 30% for Pacquiao

Interest by sport

— More people identify as NFL fans (56%) than fans of any other league or sport

— MLB ranks 2nd (46%), NBA 3rd (37%), Golf 4th (23%), NHL and boxing shared 5th (22%)

— Significantly more Democrats (43%) identify as NBA fans than Republicans (26%) do

No ifs, ands or buts about it

— Not one golf fan who identifies as a Republican voted unfavorably toward Phil Mickelson — opposed to nearly 50 Democrats (12%) who did

— Only 1% of Hispanic MLB fans said that they are “unsure” about whether to bat designated hitters or pitchers — compared to 13-15% of whites, Africans Americans and “other” races

— Only 1% of African American NBA fans replied “Unsure” when asked who the best all-time player is: Michael Jordan or LeBron James; Hispanics (14%), whites (10%) and other races (20%) were significantly less decisive.

— Only 3% of 18-to-29-year-old NBA fans are unsure how they feel about LeBron James; 70% are favorable, 27% unfavorable. Among other NBA player choices, the “Unsure” vote for 18-to-29-year-old NBA fans ranges from 24% to 37%.

— While 0% of white NBA fans selected Derrick Rose as their favorite player, not one African American NBA fan picked Dirk Nowitzki

Generational gaps

— The NFL has greater appeal among younger generations; While 64% of 18- to 29-year-olds and 62% of 30-45-year-olds identified as NFL fans, only 53% of ages 46-65 and 51% of ages 66-plus did so

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— Nearly three times as many 18- to 29-year-olds (36%) identified as boxing fans as “66-and-overs” did (13%)

— Twice as many 18- to 29-year-old NBA fans (18%) than over-65ers (9%) picked LeBron James over Michael Jordan as the best all-time player

— Regarding the topic of favorite current player, Stephen Curry dominated a single age group of NBA fans (41% of 18-to-29-year-olds) more than any other (Kevin Durant / 20% of 30-to-45, LeBron James / 21% of 46-65, None of the Above / 27% of 66+)


Between May 7 and 10, 2015, PPP surveyed 1,471 registered voters nationally. Eighty percent of the interviews were conducted on landline phones, while 20% occurred online. In addition to having responded to questions regarding sports, all surveyed were was asked to identify their age, race, gender and political beliefs — including who they voted for in the 2012 Presidential election. The margin of error is +/- 2.6%.

To help translate percentages into actual numbers, I used a calculator. For example, I wanted to know how many people 53% of 1,471 surveyed equates to. Results were not exact; percentage points were rounded up and down. Because some questions about personal ID were unanswered, some percentages do not add up to one hundred.


— 780 women (53%)

— 691 men (47%)


— 1,059 White (72%)

— 177 African American (12%)

— 118 Hispanic (8%)

— 74 Other (5%)


— 647 aged 46-65 (44%)

— 407 aged 30-45 (23%)

— 294 aged 66+ (20%)

— 191 aged 18-29 (13%)

Political party

— 588 Democrat (40%)

— 602 Republican (34%)

— 460 Independent/other (26%)

2012 Election

— 691 Barack Obama (47%)

— 647 Mitt Romney (44%)

— 132 Other/Don’t remember (9%)

Political ideology

— 427 Moderate (29%)

— 309 Somewhat conservative (21%)

— 265 Somewhat liberal (18%)

— 265 Very conservative (18%)

— 191 Very liberal (13%)

Unabridged results to Public Policy Polling’s national sports survey can be found here.

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This two-part story continues Thursday with focus on the NBA, golf and the NHL.

Jared Max is a multi-award winning sportscaster. He hosted a No. 1 rated New York City sports talk show, “Maxed Out” — in addition to previously serving as longtime Sports Director at WCBS 880, where he currently anchors weekend sports. Follow and communicate with Jared on Twitter @jared_max.