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NFL and College Football Fan Survey: Where is the Love?

Martin Shull

Is there anything more fundamentally American than football? It’s got community and camaraderie, traditions and superstitions, and some pretty awesome snacks. But best of all, it’s got competition. Some friendly. Most fierce. And not just within the NFL or college leagues, but between them, too.

We ran a national voter survey to capture a snapshot of how men and women across the U.S. feel about college football and the NFL. After further review, it appears one of them is fumbling. We asked respondents whether they have a positive or negative image of college football and the NFL. One thing stood out — people love college football. And the general sentiment is significantly more positive for college football than the NFL.

They’ve got spirit, yes they do.

So who are those college football fans? 

Not all that surprisingly, college football fans trend mostly male and relatively young. Well over half of adult men feel favorably toward the sport. The number goes down slightly as they age but generally remains high. The same can’t be said for the opinions of the NFL.

While two-thirds of younger men (68%) have a positive image of the NFL, it’s clear that this positivity lasts NFL — Not For Long — in this case just until you get to Tom Brady’s age group. And while nearly half of women under 55 view college football favorably, women across the board are lukewarm at best toward the NFL.

Age and gender matter, but do politics? 

Like everything in our emotionally-charged, deeply divided nation, yep.

Republicans love college football (+47 positive) but are closer to evenly split about the NFL (only +6 positive). Democrats, on the other hand, feel favorably about both the NFL and college football by roughly the same margins (27 and 29 points, respectively). Republicans, Democrats, and Independents can agree on one thing, though — college football is generally good. 

(A college football team from a state that voted for Hillary Clinton hasn’t won the national championship before the 2004 season. Since then there have been six Super Bowl winners from Trump states and nine from Clinton states. Make of that what you will!)

And maybe this is the real reason why football is America’s top sport. We all show up feeling pretty good about the teams, the traditions…and the tailgating.

This data comes from a Meeting Street Insights online survey of 1,000 registered voters conducted December 28 – 30, 2019.

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