NFL Nation: ESPN Sports Polls

We know where NFC West teams stand in popularity among Americans.

"Where are the final tallies for most popular teams (across the league)?" @ChrisLoces wants to know.

Chris was surprised the Oakland Raiders didn't crack the top five most popular teams in the latest survey from ESPN Sports Polls.

The Raiders ranked 12th in polling for 2012's first quarter.

Pollsters conduct 1,500 monthly telephone interviews with a nationally representative sample of Americans age 12 and older. They have reached 390,000 Americans since 1994 via land lines and cell phones, in English and Spanish.

The San Francisco 49ers were the highest-ranked NFC West team at No. 8.

I was a little surprised to see the Detroit Lions ranked among the top 15, above the Miami Dolphins and New York Jets. The Baltimore Ravens (23rd) ranked lower than I would have expected relative to their on-field performance.

The Indianapolis Colts (11th) and Raiders were the highest-ranked teams to have relocated to another city in the past three decades.

Seven of the 10 least popular teams were relatively new to their cities, either through relocation or expansion. Those teams were Baltimore, Houston, Tennessee, Carolina, Arizona, St. Louis and Jacksonville. Tampa Bay, Atlanta and Cincinnati ranked among the bottom 10 despite longer tenures in their current cities.

Unhealthy franchises tend to move. Once they do move, they start fresh with a new fan base. It then takes time to build up equity with multiple generations of fans.

In the Cardinals' case, the fan base includes quite a few transplants with loyalties in other markets.

The chart shows which percentage of respondents said they favored particular teams. There were no ties (I rounded to the tenth for readability). Note that 10.3 percent of respondents did not identify a favorite team.
The San Francisco 49ers are six times as popular as the St. Louis Rams, 4.8 times as popular as the Arizona Cardinals and 2.6 times as popular as the Seattle Seahawks.

That was one conclusion drawn from the latest ESPN Sports Poll gauging fans' favorite NFL teams.

Pollsters conduct 1,500 monthly telephone interviews with a nationally representative sample of Americans age 12 and older. Edwin Roman, ESPN's director of Consumer Insights, passed along the data ranking teams by which percentage of respondents favored them.

The Dallas Cowboys were first at 8.8 percent in first-quarter polling for 2012. The Green Bay Packers (7.2) were second, followed by the New York Giants (7.1), Pittsburgh Steelers (7.1) and New England Patriots (6.8). There was a big drop to the sixth-ranked Chicago Bears (4.2). New Orleans was next at 4.1, followed by the 49ers at 4.0.

The second chart sums the percentages for teams by divisional affiliation (10.3 percent identified no favorite team).

The NFC West ranked eighth, ahead of only the AFC South. Only the Jacksonville Jaguars (0.4 percent) trailed the Rams in popularity.

This would seem to confirm suspicions that the NFC West is not America's Division, and America's Team is indeed the Cowboys, not the 49ers, Seahawks, Cardinals or Rams.

The polling does match up with my perceptions for fan interactivity on the NFC West blog. We hear from more 49ers and Seahawks fans than Cardinals or Rams fans in the comments sections, chats, mailbag, etc. The polling also correlates with how long each NFC West team has resided in its current market.

That is also reflected in the AFC South's standing as the least popular division. Indianapolis and Tennessee are relocated franchises. Jacksonville and Houston are relatively recent expansion franchises.

I suspect this polling data might not be popular among Cardinals and Rams fans, but if the info is accurate, the backlash will be minimal.

Note: ESPN Sports Polls contacts Americans year-round via land line and cell phones in English and Spanish, reaching 390,000 Americans since 1994.

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