Game Day Meets Election Day: Sports Records, Election Results, and the American South


Given the emerging literature on the connection between sports outcomes and election results, we replicate and extend previous scholarship while investigating if the relationship is most evident in the American South where sports is followed with a religious fervor. The first stage of our study replicates and extends the analysis by Miller (2013) of the relationship between professional sports records and incumbent vote share in mayoral elections. The second stage of this project updates the analysis by Healy et al. (2010) on the relationship between college football victories and incumbent party vote share through an exploration of the 2012 presidential election as well as senatorial and gubernatorial elections from 2010 to 2013. In the first stage, we disaggregate the influence of professional football records and find no impact of those records on incumbent vote share in mayoral elections. For the second stage, we discover that college football victories in the two weeks before the election had no impact on presidential and senatorial elections but a powerful influence on incumbent party vote share for gubernatorial elections from 2010 to 2013. A college football team victory in the two weeks before the gubernatorial election contributes 3.2–4.5 percentage points to the incumbent party vote share after controlling for prior vote share as well as key demographic variables. In both stages of this study, we find the relationship is not amplified in the South. The findings of this study on college football wins and gubernatorial election results provide further support for the contention that voter well-being and happiness can influence retrospective voting, and the phenomenon is neither limited to the South nor confined to the power conferences. As elections move closer to the people, the impact of college football outcomes becomes more evident.

Social Science Quarterly, 98(5)

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Keith E. Lee Jr.
Keith E. Lee Jr.
Associate Professor