Basketball overtakes baseball as America’s second-favorite sport with soccer gaining

It might be time to rethink America’s pastime.

As it has regularly since 1937, Gallup polled Americans with the question: What is your favorite sport to watch? Football remained king, but basketball surpassed baseball as America’s second-favorite spectator sport. More surprising, though, might be the fact that soccer is hot on baseball’s heels, too.

Despite the controversies surrounding football, including the NFL’s mishandling of domestic violence and concussion issues, 37 percent of Americans polled named it their favorite sport to watch. That number is a six percent drop from the height of football’s popularity a decade ago, but it still more than triples the number of respondents who favored basketball (11 percent) and baseball (9 percent).

Basketball eclipsed baseball for the first time in more than a decade, and the percentage of people who preferred baseball was the lowest in the poll’s 81-year history. Baseball’s popularity has declined steadily since being surpassed by football as America’s favorite spectator sport in the mid-1960s.

Basketball reached its height of popularity during the Michael Jordan era, and the poll numbers have held fairly consistent every since, save for a slight dip last decade, when football reached its peak.

Remarkably, seven percent of America’s dubbed soccer their favorite sport to watch — the highest number for any sport outside of football, basketball and baseball since 1997, when auto racing reached that height, according to Gallup. Soccer now trails baseball by just two percent in the poll.

Related: See the latest championship odds for each NBA team: 

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Sacramento Kings

Odds of making playoffs: <1%
Odds of winning championship: <1% 

Via FiveThirtyEight

(Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images)
Orlando Magic 

Odds of making playoffs: <1%
Odds of winning championship: <1% 

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(Photo by Nicole Sweet-USA TODAY Sports via Reuters)
Los Angeles Lakers

Odds of making playoffs: <1%
Odds of winning championship: <1%

Via FiveThirtyEight

(Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
Phoenix Suns

Odds of making playoffs: <1%
Odds of winning championship: <1%

Via FiveThirtyEight

(Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images)
Atlanta Hawks

Odds of making playoffs: <1%
Odds of winning championship: <1% 

Via FiveThirtyEight

(Photo by Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports via 
Memphis Grizzlies

Odds of making playoffs: 3%
Odds of winning championship: <1% 

Via FiveThirtyEight

(Hector Amezcua/Sacramento Bee/TNS via Getty Images)
Chicago Bulls

Odds of making playoffs: 5%
Odds of winning championship: <1% 

Via FiveThirtyEight

(Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images)
Brooklyn Nets

Odds of making playoffs: 9%
Odds of winning championship: <1%

Via FiveThirtyEight

(Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)
New York Knicks

Odds of making playoffs: 29%
Odds of winning championship: <1%

Via FiveThirtyEight

(Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
Dallas Mavericks

Odds of making playoffs: 10%
Odds of winning championship: <1%

Via FiveThirtyEight

(Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Portland Trail Blazers

Odds of making playoffs: 45%
Odds of winning championship: <1%

Via FiveThirtyEight

(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Charlotte Hornets

Odds of making playoffs: 25%
Odds of winning championship: <1%

Via FiveThirtyEight

(Photo by Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images)
Detroit Pistons

Odds of making playoffs: 83%
Odds of winning championship: <1% 

Via FiveThirtyEight

(Photo by Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports via Reuters)
Utah Jazz

Odds of making playoffs: 54%
Odds of winning championship: <1%

Via FiveThirtyEight

(Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)
Miami Heat

Odds of making playoffs: 63%
Odds of winning championship: <1%

Via FiveThirtyEight

(Photo by Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports via Reuters)
Indiana Pacers

Odds of making playoffs: 55%
Odds of winning championship: <1%

Via FiveThirtyEight

(Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)
Los Angeles Clippers

Odds of making playoffs: 46%
Odds of winning championship: <1%

Via FiveThirtyEight

(Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Philadelphia 76ers

Odds of making playoffs: 64%
Odds of winning championship: <1%

Via FiveThirtyEight

(Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)
New Orleans Pelicans

Odds of making playoffs: 59%
Odds of winning championship: <1%

Via FiveThirtyEight

(Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Milwaukee Bucks

Odds of making playoffs: 78%
Odds of winning championship: <1%

Via FiveThirtyEight

(Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)
Denver Nuggets

Odds of making playoffs: 92%
Odds of winning championship: 1%

Via FiveThirtyEight

(Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images)
Washington Wizards

Odds of making playoffs: 89%
Odds of winning championship: 1%

Via FiveThirtyEight

(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Oklahoma City Thunder

Odds of making playoffs: 92%
Odds of winning championship: 3%

Via FiveThirtyEight

(Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)
Minnesota Timberwolves

Odds of making playoffs: 99%
Odds of winning championship: 3%

Via FiveThirtyEight

(Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
Boston Celtics

Odds of making playoffs: >99%
Odds of winning championship: 4%

Via FiveThirtyEight

(Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images)
San Antonio Spurs

Odds of making playoffs: 99%
Odds of winning championship: 6%

Via FiveThirtyEight

(Photo by Brian Sevald/NBAE via Getty Images)
Toronto Raptors

Odds of making playoffs: >99%
Odds of winning championship: 9%

Via FiveThirtyEight

 (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
Houston Rockets

Odds of making playoffs: >99%
Odds of winning championship: 13% 

Via FiveThirtyEight

(Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Cleveland Cavaliers

Odds of making playoffs: >99%
Odds of winning championship: 15% 

Via FiveThirtyEight

(Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

Golden State Warriors

Odds of making playoffs: >99%
Odds of winning championship: 40% 

Via FiveThirtyEight

(Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)

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In June, a SportsBusiness Journal study of Nielsen ratings since 2000 showed that the median age of Major League Baseball and NFL fans had risen sharply to 57 and 50 years old, respectively. Meanwhile, NBA and Major League Soccer fans respectively held more consistent at median ages of 42 and 40.

It’s easy to figure out why the MLB is struggling to reach younger audiences in the age of shorter attention spans, and those Nielsen numbers don’t even reflect digital media. The NBA has an average following of 29.4 million on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, compared to 17.3 million for the NFL, 6.3 for MLB and 2.3 for MLS. All of which suggests the NBA’s rise to second in popularity will hold steady.

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Ben Rohrbach is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at rohrbach_ben@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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