Loyal Cougars

Holy War fan divisions not just stereotype

Examining self-reported statistics shows that divisions among BYU and Utah fans sadly aren’t just stereotypes.

When trying to explain the dynamics of the BYU-Utah rivalry to friends who have never been to Utah, I often point to North Carolina and Duke. They understand how one is a private school and one is a state school. The people I talk to seem to quickly understand how Duke has an exclusive reputation and philosophy that by their nature seems to be fundamentally different from UNC’s more open enrollment. That’s a rivalry, like BYU and Utah, where it is more than just one big state school verses the other big state school.

In my experience, making this comparison of significant philosophical differences seemed to help them understand a bit of what is happening in Utah. But, according to real polling data, the North Carolina Duke rivalry doesn’t hold a candle to the actual demographics of the fan bases in Utah. Though UNC-Duke is thought of as a rivalry that is built on political and class lines, it is in fact a very, very poor predictor of political affiliation.

A 2012 North Carolina poll found 19% of the total population cheers for Duke, and Duke in turn has a 19% share of the state’s Democrats and a 21% share of the state’s Republicans.  32% of North Carolinians surveyed said they cheered for the Tar Heels and they have that same share with each of the nations political parties.

If you’re not familiar with polling crosstabs, each column adds up to 100%. The base column is a summary of the whole population, while the other column breakdown each school’s share among that sub-group.

UNC Politics

Another PPP poll across the state of Utah found the sporting divisions were not only deep and significant, but somewhat accurate predictors of both religious and political affiliation.

This survey found that while support for each school was quite even in the population of the state (35% to 33%) a majority of the state’s Democrats (57%) cheer for Utah while a  majority of the state’s Republican’s (51%) cheer for BYU.

politics

The problems continue when looking at the religion crosstab. Some self-identifying Utah Mormons cheer for Utah (21%) but they are outnumbered by more than 2-1 by Utah Mormons who cheer for BYU (48%).

BYU has little support (3%) among members of other faiths in the Utah population, while 61% of them identify as Utah supporters.

religion

So, while the Holy War at least hasn’t yet reached the levels that one school is robbing the other school’s locker room during the game, their appears to be some strong data supporting the stereotype that the game divides the state by both religiously and politically.

Obviously these numbers are not absolute. There are Democrats who cheer for BYU and Republicans who cheer for Utah. Faithful Mormons cheer for Utah and there are non-Mormon BYU fans. Let’s not confuse larger percentages of the population with the entire block of the population. With the rivalry’s football game at least going into hiatus, it will be interesting to see what, if anything, changes to these demographics. I’ll leave what could happen or what should happen for others to speculate about.

A rivalry that cuts across these kinds of lines certainly makes the game easier to sell, but I think it is unfortunate for the players to have to carry the burden of anything other than winning the game. After so many nail-biting endings over the past 15 years, the game itself should be enough for everyone.

11 Comments

  1. Jeff T

    September 19, 2013 at 12:48 pm

    Yep. U students/fans are liberal trash.

    • Brett Hein

      September 19, 2013 at 11:21 pm

      That was quite the leap

  2. Sanpete

    September 19, 2013 at 1:50 pm

    That is revealing. 3% of those of other religions support BYU. Guess most non-LDS in Utah live closer to the U, so maybe proximity contributes to that, but it’s still striking. I wonder how the numbers for Notre Dame shake out.

  3. tMoS

    September 19, 2013 at 2:06 pm

    And Jeff T immediately provides evidence of what is wrong with the rivalry. Stupid broad stroke comments with no substance, but plenty of rancor.

    I was surprised that BYU and Utah were so close together in total fanbase, 35% and 33% respectively. Though, I suspect many of those that selected USU, WSU, or UVU would select BYU if push came to shove and they had to choose between the state’s two larger institutions. Like Sanpete, I’d be curious how the numbers look for Notre Dame outside of the Catholic Church.

    Very interesting.

  4. gary

    September 19, 2013 at 2:19 pm

    I am often amused at how gullible people are. If an author quotes a study, many people automatically believe that the “study” is valid. For one thing, no study is considered valid until it is repeated with the same results. For another thing, this study was limited to the state of Utah. While a majority of U of U fans may be in Utah, the greatest majority of BYU fans are outside of Utah. The majority of ardent BYU fans I know are at the same time respectful of Utah, and visa versa. It is interesting how journalists like to speak for me and other fans as though they are an authority.

    • Brett Hein

      September 19, 2013 at 11:27 pm

      The poll (not a study) simply indicates self-reported responses fans provided. It doesn’t say whether or not people are respectful, so I’m not sure what that has to do with anything. All Greg said was “their appears to be some strong data supporting the stereotype that the game divides the state by both religiously and politically.”

  5. tMoS

    September 19, 2013 at 2:39 pm

    Hey Gary –

    “Obviously these numbers are not absolute. There are Democrats who cheer for BYU and Republicans who cheer for Utah. Faithful Mormons cheer for Utah and there are non-Mormon BYU fans. Let’s not confuse larger percentages of the population with the entire block of the population.”

    I don’t think he was trying to speak for you or any other fans.

  6. akarmenia1

    September 19, 2013 at 3:06 pm

    Those charts are kind of hard to read…you might think about increasing the size.

  7. akarmenia1

    September 19, 2013 at 3:09 pm

    The true charts I would like to see is the crime rate of players and fans at all these schools. I have a hypothesis…

  8. Tony Henrie

    September 19, 2013 at 3:31 pm

    @ Gary and others, the author was presenting poll data and commenting on it. He did not present this as any kind of “study”. Data is data. You did, however, make one valid point the data does not address: Most of BYU’s fan base actually exists outside of Utah. It would be interesting to get data on the number of worldwide BYU fans compared to the University of Utah. With BYUTV now in more than 60 million homes worldwide, with the football program being a major part of their success, I wonder how a University of Utah network would fare.

  9. Brett Hein

    September 19, 2013 at 11:28 pm

    Hey folks — have a reply for a specific person? The site supports tiered/hierarchical comments, simply use the Reply button by each comment. Just thought I’d mention it 🙂