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The demographics of D.C. sports fans

In recent months, I've publicly speculated that the Wizards have D.C.'s most racially diverse fan base, that the Redskins have a (comparatively) aging fan base, and that the Caps have the whitest fan base in the area. Some of this is just good idle conversation to pester other reporters with while waiting for a game to start, and some of this has actual implications. If the Caps fan base remains overwhelmingly white, for example, that could explain why the television ratings aren't even higher in this racially diverse market.

Well, luckily, there's a group called Scarborough Research that actually tracks such things. They were kind enough to send me reams of numbers from Scarborough Sports Marketing's 2009 survey of D.C. Around 6,000 adult residents of the Nielsen-defined Washington DMA were quizzed on a whole bunch of demographic information, and were also asked whether they had watched, attended or listened to a game featuring various teams within the past 12 months.

The questions were asked from September 2008 - August 2009, which means the responses cover an even more distant period. There are way too many numbers to include them all, but I'll provide some highlights. I have numbers covering the Nats, the Caps, the Wizards, the Redskins and United.

* The Redskins and Nats fanbases seemed to trend oldest. Here were the percentages of followers who were less than 35 years old: United (40 percent), Caps (34 percent), Wizards (32 percent), Nats (29 percent), Redskins (28 percent). And here were the percentages of followers who were older than 55: Redskins (32 percent), Nats (30 percent), Wizards (27 percent), Caps (22 percent) and United (19 percent).

* The Caps had the whitest fan base of the five pro teams; 77 percent of their fans identified themselves as white, above the region-wide average of 70 percent. The Wizards have easily the least-white fan base; just 49 percent, with 44 percent of their followers identifying themselves as black. The followers of the other three teams pretty closely mirrored the percentages for the region as a whole.

* United had by far the heaviest Hispanic following, with 23 percent of its fans identifying as Hispanic. Not a huge shock there. None of the other teams had a Hispanic percentage above the region-wide number.

* United (68 percent) and the Caps (67 percent) had the highest percentages of male fans. The Redskins (56 percent) and Wizards (61 percent) had the lowest percentages of male fans, and thus the highest percentage of female fans. That's how it works.

* The Caps had the highest proportion of married followers, at 65 percent. The Wizards had the lowest, at 52 percent.

* The Caps (50 percent) and Nats (48 percent) had the highest proportion of fans who were college grads or had some post-secondary work.

* The Caps had easily the highest proportion of fans who lived in households with incomes of more than $100,000, at 59 percent. Region-wide, that number is just 41 percent, which means Caps fans are way richer than normal. The Nats were second, at 51 percent.

Now obviously, this lumps the most casual fans in with the die-hards, and it would be interesting to see how the numbers change if you just isolate people who regularly watch games. Still, here's to making some more idle chatter.

By Dan Steinberg  |  March 11, 2010; 1:31 PM ET
Categories:  Caps , D.C. United , Nats , Redskins , Wizards  
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Hockey and Baseball are expensnive propositions when it comes to season ticket plans. Soccer not so much. I guess he Wizzards draw more walk up casual single games buyers.

Posted by: adhardwick | March 11, 2010 2:05 PM | Report abuse

I never knew about how much my family paid for season tickets when I was younger but it seems Hockey tickets are really cheap for the quality of seat. Promo games in the upper sections were like 50, normally much lower. But I've also gone to student games for the O's for 5 bucks and not seen a damn thing of the game(because we were in the right field nose bleeds).

But as far as cost of the sport, like if your kids wanted to play it, hockey would definitely be the most expensive.

Not hugely surprised on the Caps mostly white audience, but then also consider the NHL is also mostly white. Might just be speculation but both the NBA and NFL are more heavily diverse than hockey is by a long long shot.

Posted by: breaklance | March 11, 2010 2:13 PM | Report abuse

Interesting timing for your survey on demographics. Look at Torii's assessment of players on the field in the MLB if you want to talk demographics and of course Torii's views of the world. By the comments on there, I would say he pissed off a lot of peeps!

* The Caps had the whitest fan base of the five pro teams; 77 percent of their fans identified themselves as white

Are you kidding me? The fanbase may be 77% white, but for fans that pay to to go to a game, it is the whitest crowd you have ever seen. Try 90%+ white for people attending the games IMHO and I don't think that is inaccurate.

Not sure what all your demographics really mean as who knows who they are sampling.

Posted by: dmacman88 | March 11, 2010 2:27 PM | Report abuse

Does it report which team flat-out has the largest fan base? Recognizing that some folks might be fans of more than one team, but it should still be a basic figure that's available (I hope).

Posted by: edmj | March 11, 2010 2:32 PM | Report abuse

To me, the under 35/over 55 numbers really show an important trend in DC sports - and sports in general. Nowadays, people who move to DC more often than not bring their teams with them. Old timers (my grandfather was an example) who relocated to DC often picked up the local teams. And why wouldn't they, sports were a lot more local back in the day. No DirecTV, no "Red Sox bars" (barf) and no Sunday Ticket.

Now, people who move here just keep their childhood allegiances and have easy access to them - why switch? The young numbers skew higher for soccer and hockey because people are less likely to bring a serious tie to MLS/NHL teams with them (not saying it doesn't happen though, especially with hockey).

Posted by: Kev29 | March 11, 2010 2:43 PM | Report abuse

It would be interesting to know how many DC sports fans are from this area originally and if not how long have they lived here? I think that goes a long way in determining the fan base as well. If you are from someplace else and have not been here very long you probably are not as big a fan of any of the DC sports teams as you would be if you lived here 20 years or longer. I think its easier for DC sports fans to be fairweathered based on their lack of attachment to the area.

Posted by: ged0386 | March 11, 2010 3:27 PM | Report abuse

Who cares about all this nonsense?

Posted by: poguesmahone | March 11, 2010 3:43 PM | Report abuse

Who cares about all this nonsense?

Posted by: poguesmahone | March 11, 2010 3:43 PM | Report abuse

The most illogical people are the ones who post they don't care about something that they not only took the time to read, but also took the time to post about.

Posted by: RobInVaBeach | March 11, 2010 5:11 PM | Report abuse

I was on the platform at Metro center yesterday when the Caps game let out. It was all white faces ... I don't think I've ever seen a single non-white person in a Caps jersey. But you know what, THERE'S NOTHING WRONG WITH THAT. We will have truly solved the racial divide when we can look around at each other and be entirely comfortable with each of us doing our own thing without feeling segregated, excluded, or discriminated against ... just different people who happen to have different interests.

Posted by: jimwest20 | March 11, 2010 7:11 PM | Report abuse

how about doing a study of finding out what percentage of these D.C. fans for each sport were born and raised in the D.C. metropolitan area?

Posted by: destewar | March 11, 2010 7:40 PM | Report abuse

Interesting to have numbers, but I don't find any of the data surprising.

Here's to a tight-knit sports community in DC regardless of demographics.

We're all Washingtonians....

Posted by: CF11555 | March 11, 2010 9:10 PM | Report abuse

"Nowadays, people who move to DC more often than not bring their teams with them."

I have a feeling that people are bringing their teams with them because its hard to adopt the local teams as your own when:

-Nats: Have never had a winning record since coming to DC. Worst record in baseball last year. Sweet new park though.

-Skins: 4-12 last year, bottom of our division last season. Lets face it, its been a rough few years.

-Wiz: 21-41 this season, which guarantees a better record than last season!

The teams capturing the younger audiences:

DCU: 2008 US Open Cup Champs, with a couple recent MLS cups.

Caps: The only team in DC that made the playoffs last year (this year makes 3 in a row). Currently in 1st place in the NHL.

Maybe the transplants are adopting our teams that win more quickly than the teams that don't.

Posted by: troyPullen | March 12, 2010 10:14 AM | Report abuse

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