Exploring the Rays popularity through polling

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Since 2001, Public Policy Polling has conducted surveys to get a feel for 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, and 2014, 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 and the percentage of women/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

Here we can see a dramatic drop in Rays statewide preference from 2011 to 2014 across men and women. Notice in 2013, more women than men in Florida preferred the Rays over any other team. Overall, preference among women has dropped 31% and preference among men has dropped 48%.

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

Of the three political distinctions (Democrat, Republican, and Independent/Other), only Independents did not decrease in Rays preference. Preference for the Rays among Democrats went down 44% and preference among Republicans went down 29%.

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

From this graph, we see Rays preference among whites has dropped from 22% to 12%. Preference among Hispanics and African-Americans has gone down 1% point each, from 9 to 8 and 5 to 4, respectively. Preference among Others has gone up from 4% to 13%.

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

According to this data, each age segment has decreased, with the 30-45 group dropping the most, from 19% to 7% preference for the Rays. Preference among the 46-65 and 65 and older age groups only dropped 4 percentage points each. Preference among the 18-29 age group also dropped over 10 percentage points from 18% to 8%. Baseball’s target demographic leans older, so perhaps the Rays now fit in the general norm, but double figure drops in 18-29 and 30-45 ranges can not be a healthy sign.

There is no doubt the folks at Public Policy Polling do a great job. But before we consider the above results as gospel, we have to take a closer look at the accuracy of the data, particularly the total overall preference number.

We know the population of Florida is 19,320,000 (appx as of 2012). Using their amounts surveyed and a sample size calculator, we can see the margin of error for the Public Policy Polling survey is 4% and the Confidence Level is 95%.

According to the New York Times/Facebook data published earlier this year, Rays fans range from 56% of the population in Pinellas County to 6% in Osceola County or less where the Rays are not in the top three teams favored. As there are 67 counties in Florida and the PPP pollsters called an average of 10 people per county, the odds of randomly sampling a Rays fan varies dramatically, from less than 1 in 10 in Osceola County to nearly 6 in 10 if they called anyone in Pinellas County.

For example, the population of Osceola County is 287,416. If 6% of the county is Rays fans, that means there are 17,245 Rays fans in Osceola County. In Pinellas County, that number is 515,939 of 921,319.

Adding in Hillsborough County and its 1,278,000 population and 651,780 Rays fans (according to the 51% published in the NYT/Facebook poll), there are a total of 1,167,719 Rays fans in Hillborough and Pinellas County alone. Add in Pasco County (pop: 470,391 x 47% Rays) and their 221,084 Rays fans and we have 1,388,803 Rays fans.

Dividing 1,388,803 by the population of Florida and those three counties total 7.12% of statewide Rays fans. With the Rays taking 40% or more in other counties in the Tampa Bay area and 10-15% in several other counties, I would guess the Public Policy Polling data is a little low. If we add in the margin of error, we get 14% of the state prefers the Rays.

While not quite the 19% who preferred the Rays in 2012, 14% might be a little more accurate, if not also a little low.

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5 comments for “Exploring the Rays popularity through polling

  1. Josh...
    June 23, 2014 at 9:08 pm

    You made a critical error at the very beginning of your analysis.

    Why do we have any reason to assume that they polled an average of ten people per county? That would be a terrible way to collect data as it would give more weight to counties with smaller populations. They polled the entire stare at random, so that the counties with the greater populations undoubtedly had more chances of being polled. Which makes sense.

    You are correct in your analysis that IF they polled 10 people per county, the Rays would have an understated result.

    But again, there is no reason to suspect that they decided to poll about the same amount of people per county, thus giving equal weight to all counties regardless of population size.

    Thus, if they followed proper data gathering practices and their data as a result were sufficiently random and normally distributed, we have no reason to assume that their results are incorrect.

    • Mike Lortz
      June 24, 2014 at 2:08 am

      Thanks for commenting.

      Agree 100%. I would be very surprised if they called 10 people per county. That would be awkward. Some counties were probably not represented at all. Especially the smaller, less populated counties.

      I still however, think they are a little low. Especially when compared to the Facebook data, which probably had a much larger data sample than the 500-700 polled via PPP. I estimated a number in three counties nearly equal to the 10% PPP estimates favors the Rays. I am not saying the Rays have a majority, or even 33%, but I would say Rays fandom safely sits between 15-20% of Florida residents. PPP’s results were in that range in 2011 and 2012.

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