Gallup poll: Football loses some fans, still Americans' favorite sport

The sport of football has taken a public relations beating in recent years, but it’s still by far the most popular spectator sport in the U.S., according to a recent Gallup Poll.

Conducted in early December, the poll found out 37 percent of respondents chose football as their favorite sport to watch. Basketball is second, at 11 percent, while baseball was chosen by 9 percent. Soccer was fourth, at 7 percent.

However, the response for football, which encompasses not just the NFL, but NCAA football and other forms, is down 6 percentage points from its all-time high of 43 percent support in 2007.

Gallup analysts surmise several factors have led to the decline in interest. A separate Gallup Poll taken this fall during the height of the national-anthem protest controversy in the NFL found support for pro football had fallen 10 percentage points since the last poll in 2012.

Gallup also surmised that all the attention given to concussions in the sport has dampened interest, as has a series of domestic-violence incidents involving NFL players.

Still, football is doing exceptionally well compared to baseball, which hit an-all-time low mark of support in the recent poll. That 9 percent is a far cry from baseball’s peak of popularity in the post-WWII years. Gallup has been conducting a similar poll annually since 1937. Baseball peaked at 39 percent in the late 1940s. Football passed baseball as Americans’ favorite sport in 1972.