Sports are also playing a role in this year's presidential campaign.
The candidates weighed in on the NFL referee lockout, Romney appeared at the London Olympics and a NASCAR race, and Obama has been interviewed several times by ESPN. Both candidates are reportedly seeking to join the Monday Night Football broadcast on the eve of the election.
Even a fictional sports drama has created presidential campaign drama -- Romney has adopted the Friday Night Lights slogan "Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, Can't Lose" and was endorsed by the book's author Buzz Bissinger
, a longtime Democrat. This caused Hollywood director-producer Peter Berg
-- of the TV series and movie based on the book -- to strike back with a letter attacking Romney.
Perhaps political candidates have always intuitively known what we learned in our research: That sports fans are more likely to vote than non-fans. This is clear in the chart "Politics of Sports Fans" (above) which shows fan bubbles for most sports floating toward the top of the space in high turnout territory.
The chart, based on an analysis of over 200,000 interviews conducted by Scarborough Research, also shows that high-turnout Republicans favor the PGA Tour, NASCAR, and college football. The NFL, Olympics, college basketball, and Major League Baseball fall in the middle, with just a slight tilt to the right. On the other hand, Democrats are more likely to gravitate to the NBA, tennis and soccer.
Obama and his campaign team (who are avid consumers of Scarborough data) know that golfers and college basketball fans are high turnout Republicans while professional basketball fans are more likely to be Democrats. Obama's well publicized schedule of golf, March Madness brackets, and pick-up hoops amounts to "sports triangulation" - an appeal to both Republicans and Democrats in an effort to reach the middle. (To hold his golfing base, Romney countered with an endorsement from Jack Nicklaus
-- if elected, he would be the first non-golfing president in decades.)
Defecting Republican golfers and college sports fans were a key part of Obama's winning coalition in 2008. Will we see him, like Bob Hope
, holding his favorite golf club on stage at campaign rallies in the closing days? Unlikely. But with the presidential contest tied going into in the 18th hole, it might not be a bad idea.
Will Feltus (@WillFeltus) is the Senior Vice President for research and planning at National Media in Alexandria, Virginia.
Mike Shannon (@mikepshannon) is a partner at the management consulting firm Vianovo in Austin, Texas.