With Spain’s 1-0 victory over the Netherlands, the World Cup has come to a close. A spectacle watched by millions – perhaps billions – around the world, the four-year tournament constitutes the world’s most popular sporting event.
In the United States, long a hold-out against football-mania, interest in the World Cup has been steadily rising. While still below Latin-American or European levels of enthusiasm, the number of people watching games has reached new degrees. In my hometown, for instance, a number of my peers expressed surprising amounts of enthusiasm about the latest soccer news. Even individuals one wouldn’t expect – 10-year-old kids, young teenage girls – displayed passion throughout the event.
My hometown is also fairly liberal place. Indeed, one could get away with describing it as one of the most liberal suburbs in America. Coincidence?
Perhaps not. When one thinks about the regions most intensely interested in soccer, Republican-voting areas generally don’t come to mind. People generally don’t imagine the good folk of Alabama or Utah as being passionately devoted to soccer.
Instead, most would probably characterize people in the West Coast and the Northeast as the biggest fans of soccer. They might point to places like Seattle, the Bay Area, or New York City. Liberal places, in other words. (One might also mention regions more populated by Latinos, such as San Diego or southwest Texas).
Media coverage also points in this direction. The New York Times, a strong proponent of American liberalism, blanketed its sports sections with the World Cup. Coverage included at least a couple of articles every day, a specialized blog, videos, interactive graphics, and even a travel guide to South Africa. Fox News, perhaps the best representation of the American conservative, took another direction. Conservative rock-star Glenn Beck slammed the World Cup:
It doesn’t matter how you try to sell it to us, it doesn’t matter how many celebrities you get, it doesn’t matter how many bars open early. We don’t want the World Cup, we don’t like the World Cup, we don’t like soccer, we want nothing to do with it.
Fox’s evening show, Red-Eye, also aired a feature making fun of the very concept of football.
To be fair, all this constitutes little more than an educated hypothesis. There are no studies out there (that I know of, at least) proving that liberals are more likely to watch the World Cup.
But interest in soccer is just one of many differences between what liberals and conservatives do and like, no matter how seemingly unrelated to politics. Polls indicated that liberals were far bigger fans of Michael Jackson’s music, for instance. Fox News was also far more critical of the musician when he died – another strange, perhaps non-coincidence. The choice of who to vote for in the ballot box, it seems, may be related to far more than just political opinion.