During the frenzy of the World Cup, it was difficult to stay on top of all of the headlines, so one of the reports that you and I may have missed was in The Wall Street Journal newspaper where research shows that most soccer fans are liberal.
The poll showed that amongst those who consider themselves ‘liberal,’ 11% said they watched the 2010 World Cup, while a mere 6% of conservatives took in the action. About 7% of independents, which labeled themselves in the survey as ‘middle of the road,’ watched four years ago.
The question then becomes whether this is just correlation or if there is a cause to the difference between preference of sport. According to a similar poll noted in the article, preference for National Football League playoff games remains constant across political affiliations at 28%.
The reporter looked for a possible correlation to the numbers from the poll in relation to the state of youth soccer. He compared total youth populations in each state with a count of players under 19 years of age from regional and state youth soccer organizations connected to U.S. Soccer to get a percentage of youths that play per state.
The map produces an interesting outcome that seems to support the findings of the poll commissioned by Experian. Blue (left-leaning) states, such as Massachusetts, Maine, Washington, and Vermont have higher percentages of youths playing soccer than states with conservative tendencies, such as Texas, Kansas, and Missouri. The article notes that of the top 20 states in terms of participation, 17 gave their electoral votes to the Democrat, Barack Obama, while the 16 of the 20 lowest states voted for the Republican, Mitt Romney in the 2012 presidential election.
While the candidates represent an extraordinarily small sample size, it is worth noting that Barack Obama is a West Ham United fan and Romney attends his grandson’s youth matches.
High attention to soccer in certain states could be a by-product of the high numbers of foreign-born individuals in those areas. A connection could be a result of relatively large immigrant populations having been exposed to the sport more than their native-born neighbors. Immigrant populations tend to affiliate with liberal ideals as well, which could explain Experian’s findings.
In terms of media representation, multiple conservative columnists and talk show hosts have labeled soccer as from a reason for America’s moral decay, to being worse than the deadly ebola virus.
Conservatives associate the game with more liberal thinkers, as they observe that the game is more popular in metropolitan areas, which have progressive populations (i.e. Boston and New York).
Soccer has reason to appeal to both sides of the US political spectrum. Republicans preach that hard work and determination can get an individual to the top, which is true for the world’s best players, while liberals associate themselves with the collective efforts of society, which are embodied in the integral team cohesion required to attain success at the game’s top levels.