The National Hockey League and the National Basketball Association don’t get as much public attention as either Major League Baseball or the National Football League. More than half of American adults in this week’s Economist/YouGov Poll say they have no interest in the NHL or the NBA, despite the fact that both sports are in the middle of very competitive championship series.
The demographic patterns of interest are similar for all four sports: women say they are less interested than men, and those who are better off care more than those who are not.
Racial differences exist in only two sports: African-Americans express more interest than whites in the NBA and the NFL. Interest in the NHL and in Major League Baseball is not much different between white and black Americans.
Even among those who are interested, there is no consensus on a favorite team. 9% of NHL fans say their favorite team is the Boston Bruins, and while that’s more than the percentage for any other team, it’s far from dominant. It is three times as large as the 3% who call the St. Louis Blues their favorite. The Bruins do dominate in the Northeast, where 30% name it as their favorite team. But in the Midwest, more fans favor Detroit (17%), Chicago (16%), Minnesota (15%), and Columbus (11%) than the Blues (8%).
NHL Fans expect that Boston will take the Stanley Cup this year, though not that many want them to win. Fans are closely divided on their preference, with the Blues narrowly edging out the Bruins as the fans’ choice.
Only in the Northeast do fans give the Bruins their clear support. They lead the Blues 51% to 35% there. In the South and Midwest, fans favor the Blues (42% to 28% in the South, 41% to 26% in the Midwest). The West is evenly split. But everywhere, Boston is seen as likely to take the Cup home. Of course, the Boston Red Sox won last year’s World Series and the New England Patriots took the Super Bowl this year, so perhaps Americans just expect another Boston victory.
In the NBA, the Boston Celtics dominate as the first choice of fans in the Northeast (21% there call the Celtics their favorite team), but they aren’t in the NBA playoffs. And nationally, more like the Golden State Warriors (11%), who are in the finals, than support Boston (8%). The Warriors’ opponents, the Toronto Raptors, are based in Canada and don’t appear to have much of a fan base south of the Canadian border. Just 1% of US fans say the Raptors are their favorite team.
Basketball fans want the Warriors to win the NBA Championships, though by only a seven-point margin. But they think the Warriors will win by a margin of two to one.
Perhaps it’s those Celtics fans who are rooting against the Warriors. Or perhaps the Northeast and (to a lesser extent) the Midwest have adopted Toronto, which is geographically closer to them. Northeasterners favor the Raptors 44% to 36%, while the Midwest is evenly divided. The South and the West choose Golden State.