The rest of the planet may be in the grip of World Cup mania, but in the United States, soccer is very much an also-ran in fan popularity.
Just 4% of adults in this country rate soccer as their favorite sport to watch, compared with 34% who say this about football, 14% about basketball and 13% about baseball, according to a Pew Research Center telephone survey conducted from February 8 through March 7, 2006 among a randomly-selected representative national sample of 2,250 adults.
At 4%, soccer is roughly in the same league with auto racing and just ahead of ice hockey and ice skating.
What popularity soccer has in this country is anchored among Hispanics – 24% of whom say it is their favorite sport, compared with just 1% of non-Hispanic whites and 2% of blacks. Among Hispanics, soccer and football are about equal in popularity, with baseball ranking a strong third.
Looking at fan interest across all sports, the Pew survey finds that just under half (46%) of the adults in the country say they follow sports, with men (57%) more likely to do so than women (35%). These figures have been stable for more than a decade, as has the primacy that football enjoys over all other sports as a fan favorite.
While football is equally popular among blacks and whites, there is a strong racial difference in fan support for basketball and baseball. Among blacks, 31% name basketball as their favorite sport and just 4% name baseball. Among whites, 12% name basketball and 14% name baseball.
Fantasy Sports Leagues
The survey also finds that 5% of all adults play fantasy sports – a game in which contestants pick real professional athletes to be on their virtual teams, then compete against other virtual teams based on statistics arising from the real-world performances of the players they have chosen.
Men are nine times more likely than women to play in a fantasy league. Younger men are much more likely to do so than older men.
Among the 91 respondents in the Pew survey who report playing fantasy sports, just under half report that they pay money to play and about three quarters say that their league is run on the internet.
Just as it is in the real world, football is the most popular game in the fantasy world, with two-thirds of fantasy players saying they play it, compared with 16% who play fantasy baseball and 13% who play fantasy basketball.
The survey also finds that fantasy only goes so far. Two-thirds of the fantasy players say they get a bigger kick out of a win by their favorite pro team than by their fantasy team.
Perhaps some of them will be following the action in Germany this month.
About the Report
Results for this survey are based on telephone interviews conducted with a nationally representative sample of adults, ages 18 years and older, living in continental U.S. telephone households.
- Interviews conducted February 8- March 7, 2006
- 2,250 interviews
- Margin of sampling error is plus or minus 2.5 percentage points for results based on the total sample at the 95% confidence level. The margin of sampling error is higher for results based on subgroups of respondents.
Survey interviews conducted under the direction of Princeton Survey Research Associates International. Interviews were conducted in English and Spanish.
In addition to sampling error, bear in mind that question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias in the findings of opinion polls.
Read the full report for more details.