Survey examines how Americans feel about sports

Despite concerns over player safety, player protests and declining ratings, an annual survey of sports and society finds that football remains Americans’ favorite sport to watch.

The survey via PRRI (Public Religion Research Institute) also examines Americans’ attitudes towards athletics issues from youth sports to professional leagues, including participation of transgender athletes in high school sports.

Nearly four in 10 (38 percent) of Americans—and roughly equal numbers of men (39 percent) and women (37 percent) — prefer to watch football, almost the same number as baseball, basketball, soccer, hockey and auto racing combined (41 percent).

Americans’ preference for football is virtually unchanged since 2014 when 39 percent of the public said football was their favorite sport to watch.

The Super Bowl’s popularity is the clearest evidence of the NFL’s prominence. Nearly two-thirds of Americans (65 percent) say they are likely to watch the Super Bowl, including 47 percent who say they are very likely to tune in.

The only sporting event comparable to the Super Bowl is the Winter Olympics. Sixty-eight percent of Americans plan to watch the 2018 Winter Olympics, although fewer (36 percent) report that they are very likely to watch the games. Only one in three (33 percent) Americans plan to watch this summer’s World Cup.

“Although the NFL has faced its share of controversy this year, no single game captures more of the public’s attention than the Super Bowl,” said PRRI CEO Robert P. Jones. “Football has no competition for the country’s favorite sport, something that has been true for the past five years.”

Despite ongoing concern about the safety of football, few Americans say they would prohibit their son from playing the game. Seventy-one percent of Americans say they would allow their son to play competitive football.

More than one in four (27 percent) say they would not. This support differs by race and ethnicity. Nearly one-third (32 percent) of white Americans say they would not allow it, compared to 22 percent of black and 13 percent of Hispanic Americans.

A total of 41 percent of whites with a college degree say they would not allow their son to play football.

The public has mixed views about whether transgender high school students should be allowed to participate in athletics with students of the gender with which they identify. Survey results were released Jan. 25. To view the full report, including methodology, go to

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