As the Super Bowl approaches, survey reveals surprising and not-so-surprising findings of Americans' love of football

It will come as no surprise that a recent poll finds that football, especially the National Football League, enjoys deep popularity in American society. Along with that, a poll conducted by the Siena College Research Institute and St. Bonaventure University's Jandoli School of Communication found some surprising and not-so-surprising findings about this uniquely American sport.

"Sports in general and football specifically are central to who we are and what we do as a nation and as individuals," Aaron ChimbelSt. Bonaventure's Jandoli School of Communication dean said. "It connects communities, families, and friends in ways that no other sport does, and it is important to understand why and how football is part of our social fabric."

The poll surveying 3,201 Americans found the following highlights:
  • 72% say they're football fans, even if not sports fan
  • 83% watch football to bond with family and friends
  • 81% "because it's fun"
  • 65% "because it is exciting"
  • 82% say that they learn about teamwork by watching football
  • 79% learn about strategy
While these findings are not surprising, the poll found that the Dallas Cowboys are the favorite team, and they are also the most disliked. Anybody who has been a professional football fan for any length of time will appreciate that finding.

Among former players most admired are former San Franciso 49er quarterback Joe Montana. The most admired player during the 2022-23 season was seven-time Super Bowl champion Tom Brady, who retired for the second and presumably final time last week.

Among the popular current players following Brady were Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes and Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Past popular players following Montana were former Green Bay quarterback Brett Favre, former Indianapolis quarterback Peyton Manning and the Chicago Bear's running back, the late Walter Payton.  

The survey identified four categories of fanship – avid, involved, casual, and non-fan – based on people's sports fan activities.

"For Avid fans, sports is woven into their lives every day. They constantly watch, listen, check scores, and banter about sports. Involved fans love the games but don't engage daily, while casual fans likely check in on the weekends," Don Levy, Siena College Research Institute Director, said. The remaining 27% may watch a game infrequently, but sports is not front and center."

American Sports Fanship Survey: conducted January 3 - 8, 2023; 3201 responses from a proprietary online panel of US Residents. Data: statistically adjusted by age, region, race/ethnicity, education, and gender to ensure representativeness. The overall margin of error: +/- 1.8 percentage points, including the design effects from weighting.

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