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America's Favorite Sports and Favorite Sports Stars

While most will agree that Americans' love affair with sports is unshakable, there is much more room for interpretation when it comes to naming America's most-loved sport and athlete.

favorite sport football

Football has been America's favorite sport since at least 1985.

At one time, baseball was named America's favorite pastime, but so was soccer, football and even golf, depending on whom you talk to. But, market research firm Harris Interactive may have found the data to put the debate to rest once and for all. Two polls conducted in 2006 reveal exactly which sports Americans love, and which sports stars make the top of the list.

Football is Still #1

Although professional football is not quite as popular as it was in 2005, 29 percent of adults polled by Harris Interactive in December 2006 still said football was their favorite sport (down from 33 percent in 2005).

That's enough to make professional football America's favorite sport, as it has been since the poll began in 1985. How did the other sports fare?

  • Baseball came in #2, as the favorite of 14 percent of respondents

  • College football was #3, at 13 percent

  • Auto racing was #4, at 9 percent

  • Professional basketball was #5, at 7 percent

Interestingly, in the last two decades America's sports preferences seem to have changed. While professional football is even more popular than it was 20+ years ago, baseball, horse racing and men's tennis have become less so. College football and auto racing, meanwhile, have gained more fans.

Sports interests also vary quite dramatically depending on demographics. According to the survey:

  • Professional football is most popular among those who live in the East, among those with incomes of $35,000 to $45,000, and among Generation Xers.

  • Baseball is most popular among liberals and least popular among African Americans.

  • College football is most popular among those with post-graduate degrees.

  • Auto racing, such as NASCAR, is most popular among those with a high school education or less, and those with incomes of $25,000 to $35,000, and least popular among those with a post-graduate degree and liberals.

And America's Favorite Sports Star Is ... (Hint: It's NOT Michael Jordan)

The second Harris Poll, which surveyed over 2,000 U.S. adults in May 2006, set out to find which athletes are America's favorites, and they don't necessarily coincide with the favorite sports. While Michael Jordan has been the number one athlete since 1993, in 2006 he was ousted in favor of golf-pro Tiger Woods.

Tiger Woods

Tiger Woods became America's favorite athlete in 2006, bumping Michael Jordan to the number two spot for the first time since 1993.

For women, meanwhile, tennis star Venus Williams was number one, followed by her sister Serena Williams in place number two. As for the top 10 favorite athletes overall, the survey found:

  1. Tiger Woods

  2. Michael Jordan

  3. Brett Favre (Green Bay Packers quarterback)

  4. Derek Jeter (New York Yankees)

  5. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. (race car driver)

  6. Shaquille O'Neal (Miami Heat)

  7. Kobe Bryant (L.A. Lakers)

  8. LeBron James (Cleveland Cavaliers)

  9. Jeff Gordon (race car driver)

  10. Barry Bonds (San Francisco Giants)

While no women athletes made the top 10 list, the poll did rank female athletes' popularity as well. The top 10 female athletes were:

  1. Venus Williams (tennis player)

  2. Serena Williams (tennis player)

  3. Mia Hamm (soccer player)

  4. Michelle Wie (golfer)

  5. Danica Patrick (race car driver)

  6. Michelle Kwan (figure skater)

  7. Annika Sorenstam (golfer)

  8. Maria Sharapova (tennis player)

  9. Anna Kournikova (tennis player)

  10. Sasha Cohen (figure skater)

One final note: men and women stayed consistent when it came to their favorite sports stars, with one exception: Men tended to prefer Serena Williams, while women chose Venus.

Recommended Reading

Cheerleading: Becoming as Dangerous As These Top 7 Most Dangerous Youth Sports?

The Top 5 Causes of Head Injuries and How to Avoid Them


America's Favorite Athlete

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