Exploring the Rays Popularity Through Polling: 2016

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

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 now 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.

1Rays popularity 2011 to 2016

Other teams receiving votes in 2016 included the Braves (13%), Marlins (12%), Yankees (10%), Red Sox (9%), Cubs (7%), Mets (5%), Phillies (4%), and Other/Not a Baseball Fan (27%).

While there doesn’t seem to be a correlation between sample size and popularity, Rays popularity did increase 2% and the sample size increased 9% in 2016.

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:

Rays Popularity M-F

The following graph depicts the previous chart:

Rays Popularity M-F graph

The biggest news here is that the Rays are now more popular among women than men. While male preference for the Rays declined only 1%, the Rays saw a considerable 5% increase in popularity among women from 2015 to 2016. This is may be “The Kevin Kiermaier Effect”. Having a dreamboat in centerfield can only help attract many casual female fans.

Among men, the Rays are still struggling to get back to their 2011 and 2012 levels. Perhaps a deep dive into what drives local male fandom could be done.

Rays Popularity by Political Party

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

Rays Popularity by politics

The following graph depicts the previous chart:

Rays Popularity by politics graph

In 2016, the Rays saw increases from both Republicans and Democrats. That’s great. You know why? Because the Rays are winners. I’ve talked to several prominent business people. Very successful people. Winners. And although they don’t see eye-to-eye politically, they all like going to see the Rays. Great ballclub. These people, they aren’t spending their money anywhere else. They’re spending it here, in Tampa Bay. Baseball is a great game. You could buy a team if you had enough money. I don’t. But you could. Then you could get all the Republicans and Democrats in one stadium and tell them to agree. And they’ll do it. Because baseball bridges gaps and brings people together.

But you know what I saw yesterday? I saw that beer prices are double inside the stadium. Double. For what? The same beer. We gotta change that. We’ll do that.

(End bad Trump impression.)

Rays Popularity by Race

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

Rays Popularity by race

The following graph depicts the previous chart:

Rays Popularity by race graph

Another segment of great news. While the Rays popularity among Whites went up 1%, it increased considerably among Hispanics and African-Americans.

According to the Pew Research Center, there are also over 4 million Hispanics in Florida and Hispanics make up 23% of the state population. In 2016, the Marlins had a 10% gain in fandom among Hispanics. The Rays increased 5%. Meanwhile, the Yankees decreased 13% to only 9%. That is considerable as the two Florida teams try to win local and more importantly, 2nd generation fans from transplanted Northerners.

Last year, I said the Hispanic demographic was “a steep hill to climb for the Rays”. This year, they look a lot better. However, a small sample size caveat: as we know, Yankees fan footholds are in the Orlando area and the east coast of Florida. A preponderance of surveyed Hispanics might have been from the Miami or Tampa Bay area.

While the Rays are still lacking in highly marketable Hispanic players, perhaps playing the Cuban National Team in Havana will help the Rays capture more of the Florida Hispanic fanbase. On the field, the Marlins still have the advantage with superstar pitcher Jose Fernandez.

Among African-Americans, perhaps we can explain the increase in fandom as “The Chris Archer Effect”. Although David Price was a more established star on the field, he was not as a prominent in the community as Chris Archer is. From his hairstyle to his appearances and his volunteer work, Chris Archer has become the face of the franchise. That he is from a segment of the population baseball is struggling to maintain is a great opportunity for the Rays and Major League Baseball as a whole.

There is more work to do, especially in regards to the “Others” group, but the 2016 results are very promising for the Rays.

Rays Popularity by Age Group

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

Rays Popularity by age

The following graph depicts the previous chart:

Rays Popularity by age graph

First, the good news: the Rays increased 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: the PPP poll decided to combine the 18-29 and 30-45 age groups. I’m not sure why, but that makes life difficult. Perhaps they didn’t get enough respondents to the poll, so they combined the data to get a decent measurement. So in order to not drastically change the chart, I used the 18-45 response for both the 18-29 and 30-45 category. Hence, 18-29 decreased and 30-45 increased. There is a very good chance these groups are polling the same as 2015.

Hopefully the 2017 responses will break these groups back out again.

Gains/Losses since 2015

The following chart shows the Rays gains or losses for several demographic segments reported between 2015 and 2016.

2016 results

The Rays gained in popularity among 10 segments and four segments had decreases. Beginning with the declines, the 1% decline in Men is not a big deal, the 5% decline in Independents might be explainable due to our highly polarize political climate, and the 2% decline in 18-29 year olds is again due to the fact that the PPP combined the 18-29 and 30-45 demographic this year.

The rest of the results are great news for the Rays. They gained considerably in two very important segments: Women and Hispanics. And they also gained considerably in African-Americans. Gaining across both political parties is also good to see as no matter how volatile our politics, we can all go enjoy a ballgame.

Public Policy Polling data shows the Rays are tied with the Braves as most popular team in Florida. Diving into the data shows the Rays made significant gains in several key demographic segments. Whether this is due to the randomness of polling or to the work of the Rays marketing or player outreach cannot be determined. But the bottomline is that results of the 2016 PPP polling are very good news for the Rays.

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