Exploring the Rays Popularity Through Polling: 2016 Part 2

(This is an update to posts in 2014 and 2015 and in February 2016.)

Since 2001, Public Policy Polling has conducted surveys to track the opinions of the American people. While most of their polls are political, they sometimes ask sports-related questions.

Beginning in 2011, and continuing in 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, and for the second time in 2016 the folks at PPP asked Florida residents about their preference of baseball teams, to include the Rays.

This chart depicts the percent of people who favor the Rays over any other team.


Other teams receiving votes in September 2016 included the Yankees (15%), Marlins (14%), Braves (11%), Red Sox (9%), Cubs (5%), Mets (4%), Phillies (2%), and Other/Not a Baseball Fan (26%).

There doesn’t seem to be a correlation between sample size and popularity, Rays popularity has increased  and decreased as sampled size increased and decreased through the years.

The following segments will explain how the Rays fared in PPP polling in various demographics.

Rays Popularity by Gender

The following chart depicts the Rays popularity among women and men who prefer the Rays over any other team:


The following graph depicts the previous chart:


While female preference for the Rays stayed the same, popularity among men increased 3%. Popularity among both sexes is now better it than it has been since 2012.

Rays Popularity by Political Party

The following chart depicts the percentages of people who prefer the Rays segmented by political party.


The following graph depicts the previous chart:


In September 2016, the Rays saw increases from both Democrats and Independents but saw a drop in their Republican fanbase. And for the first time, Republicans are the smallest percentage of fans.

Before I make any conclusions here, there could be a lot to this. Currently, the Republican party is not seeing eye-to-eye with itself. There is a lot of party dissension, especially in regards to voting for president.

If we look at another party of the PPP release that divided those polled into political ideology, we see a more evenly divided picture.

  • Very Conservative: 23%
  • Somewhat Conservative: 10%
  • Moderate: 16%
  • Somewhat Liberal: 10%
  • Very Liberal: 16%

So what we might have is many conservatives calling themselves “independent” and not Republicans.

Rays Popularity by Race

The following chart depicts the percentages of people who prefer the Rays segmented by race.


The following graph depicts the previous chart:


The Rays popularity among Hispanics and Others continued to grow considerably. That’s a good sign. The team’s popularity among Whites increased only 1% and their popularity among African-Americans dropped only 1%. While they are only 1% below their highest approval rating in the African American community, they need to keep pushing among the White population to return to their 2012 levels of approval.

According to the Pew Research Center, there are also over 4 million Hispanics in Florida and Hispanics make up 23% of the state population. It is very possible the Rays exhibition in Cuba helped out their statewide popularity in the Hispanic community. That is a very good sign and evidence the trip to Havana was worth the investment.

Rays Popularity by Age Group

The following chart depicts the percentages of people who prefer the Rays segmented by age:


The following graph depicts the previous chart:


First, the good news: the Rays continue to increase in popularity among the 45 and older demographics. Although still not where they were in 2012, there are slight increases in those the 45-65 and 65 and up age groups.

The bad news: while the 30-45 demographic seems to be recovering from a severe drop in 2014, the 18-29 demographic has begun falling again from 13% in 2015 to 10% in late 2016. This is particularly disappointing as this is the demographic the Rays are always talking about: the kids who grew up with the Rays existing. They are starting to buy homes and tickets and have families. They should be Rays fans.

Curiously, we see the exact opposite with the Marlins. In the September 2016 PPP survey, the Marlins trended much better with 18-30 and 30-45 age groups (19% each) and poorly with the 46-60 and 60 and above crowds (9% and 10%, respectively).

According to the polling, the Marlins are doing better winning younger fans than the Rays. The Rays, however, are more popular with the older crowd than the Marlins. Perhaps this can be explained by the new stadium. Perhaps the allure of the new stadium has won the Marlins the younger, hip crowd. Meanwhile, the Rays, with their outdated stadium are attracting life-long baseball fans who don’t concern themselves with amenities.

Gains/Losses since earlier in 2016

The following chart shows the Rays gains or losses for several demographic segments reported February 2016 and September 2016.


Of the 14 segments, the Rays gained in popularity among 9 segments. Three segments had decreases and two stayed the same.

Beginning with the declines, I explained the oddity of the 6% decline in Republican support earlier. I would expect that to increase after the presidential election in November.

The rest of the results are solid news for the Rays. They gained considerably in two segments: Independents and Hispanics. As explained above, we can explaining both of the rise of the independents and the increased support from the Hispanic community.

The Rays saw a steep decline in popularity across several segments from 2012 to 2014. Perhaps the allure of being new contenders wore off and the Rays entered a new reality among Florida baseball fans, where they are no longer new, but expected to contend. Whatever the case, they are slowly but surely recovering according to Public Policy Polling.

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