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FiveThirtyEight

Politics

Brad Miner wrote:

With the Super Bowl coming up this weekend, I [Miner] want to write about sports, which I consider a key to building a larger conservative coalition in America. . . .

If you did a survey of the political philosophies of 75,000 randomly selected Americans you’d expect the usual–if somewhat mystifying–results: “Only about one-in-five Americans currently call themselves liberal (21%), while 38% say they are conservative and 36% describe themselves as moderate.” So said the folks at Pew Research, and this was after the November election.

Do that same poll among the fans at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa on Sunday and the results would likely be more like 15% liberal, 30% moderate, and 50% conservative. And a bunch of those liberals would probably be gun owners.

Obviously those numbers are just speculation on my part, but I guarantee that Steelers fans are more conservative than all Pennsylvanians and ditto Cardinals devotees and the rest of Arizona. Which is not to say that these folks cast their ballots in November more for McCain than Obama. That’s the problem.

What do the data say?

Yu-Sung and I looked at the “attended sporting event in the past year” item in the General Social Survey. (Unfortunately, the question was only asked once, in the 1993-1996 survey.) 56% of respondents said they attended an amateur or professional sports event” during the past twelve months. How do they differ from the 44% who didn’t?

So, at least in the mid-1990s, sports attenders were quite a bit more Republican than other Americans (the categories in the graph above are Strong Democrat, Democrat, lean Democrat, Independent, lean Republican, Republican, strong Republican), but not much different in their liberal-conservative ideology.

So these data do not appear to support Miner’s claim. Miner expected sports fans to be label themselves as more conservative but maybe not to be more likely to vote Republican; actually, sports fans were more likely to call themselves Republican but no more likely to describe themselves as conservative.

Some other issues:

1. The sporting event attended could be the Super Bowl or your kid’s soccer game. Maybe more dramatic results would be obtained by considering a more restricted group of sports fans.

2. There are lots of surveys of TV watching, so I’m sure there are tons of data that would let you crosstab ideology, voting, and spectator sports watching.

3. More generally, we never want to rely too strongly on just one survey. Still, it’s fun to look.

Those of you who see this and think you could do better: You’re probably right, and I encourage you to dig up some additional survey data on this topic that connects Nate’s two biggest professional interests.

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