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The Political Leanings of Every NFL Team’s Fans

Jan 14, 2019 | Insights

Not to make it about politics, but… Well, it seems we are going to make it about politics.

But THEY did it first!

Who are “they,” you ask? In this instance, the good people at FiveThirtyEight, ABC News’ politics/sports/economics opinion poll blog. Back in September of 2017 they ran a piece, which you can check out by clicking here, wherein they shared what their polling revealed to be the political leanings of each NFL team’s fans.

Finding ourselves in the heat of playoff season, as we do, we believed it an excellent time to visit this subject ourselves. We wanted to see how StatSocial’s earned media insights stacked up against 538’s robust opinion polling. To that end, we recreated the question and answer, and set about observing the online political engagements of hundreds of thousands of each NFL team’s fans. Lo and behold, the results make sense!

One Difference — Analyzing Superfans vs. Causal Fans

Polling of the sort featured in the above linked entry will, invariably, include a population who may identify as being fans of a specific team when directly asked, but who are in reality only casual fans. Analyzing the political affinities of those actively engaged with a team on social media means we’ll only be looking at that team’s most hardcore and dedicated fans. (This same wisdom applies when it comes to the statistics surrounding any social media audience, be it those engaging with, or discussing, a favorite rock band, comedian, brand of spaghetti sauce, or whatever the case may be.)

As a colleague here at StatSocial put it, “My mom would identify as a Patriots fan if asked, but she isn’t actively following — nor sharing content about — the Patriots on social media.

No Bias in Statistics

As an analytics company we have no interest in injecting ourselves into the public discourse of the times. Political opinions run the gamut around the StatSocial offices, as they will in any workplace.

While we’ll leave it to the history blogs to opine on where this era ranks in the grand scheme of political division in our country, there’s no refuting that the gridiron — poetically speaking, at least — has been, in the past couple of years, one of the public stages upon which whatever divisions there are have been playing themselves out (we even blogged of it a bit, in the past, here).

Let’s Go to the Videotape!

Purely for convenience’s sake, the below graphic shows our results sorted from those teams whose fans’ political beliefs are most right-leaning to those most leftwardly inclined. Presenting the data in this way should not be construed as having any additional meaning.

Summary of Our Findings

California’s Bay Area, the Pacific Northwest, and northern locales east of the Mississippi are home to the teams with the most left-leaning fans. This is not entirely unexpected.

That said, rather different from the findings of 538’s polling, the above reveals that before even analyzing the audiences of one-third of the league’s squads, political inclinations begin to tilt slightly to the right, with the pendulum swinging irrefutably that way before the list has even reached the halfway point.

When it comes to which team counts the largest proportion of liberals among their fans, our findings and those of the 538 poll line-up. The 49ers, the home team of one of the country’s most famously left-leaning cities, are found to have a fanbase consistent with that narrative both according to 538‘s polling and our data. From there, our findings and those of the poll begin to divert a fair bit.

You can check out most of the nitty-gritty for yourselves above. Some points do need to be acknowledged here, however. In an overall way, our findings reveal the entire league’s fanbase to be more conservatively inclined than what 538’s polling suggested. At approximately 59% to 41%, San Francisco’s left-leaning majority is not nearly so confident as the 70.6% right-leaning majority found among the Tennessee Titans’ fans.

The Buffalo Bills find the political affinities of their audience split nearly down the middle, which is rather different than 538’s findings that Buffalo’s fanbase is one of the most conservative of all the league’s teams.

The 49ers statistical converse, to the right, can be found among the audience of the Arizona Cardinals. Illustrating further that we’ve discovered a rather pronounced rightward lean to the league’s fans on the whole, there are 10 teams with audiences more conservatively inclined than that of Arizona.

Bookmark This Page

We’ll be visiting numerous subjects of this general nature — all highlighting the rich and varied affinities of each NFL team’s fans — in the days running up to Super Bowl LIII.

And check out the written matter in the footer, and reach out to us if you have any questions or would like to see much, much more.

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