American football, or at least the professional version of it, is in a rut. The NFL’s TV ratings have tanked (college football’s regular season ratings declined, as well, though Monday night’s national title game put up some good numbers). No one knows what a catch is, and most everyone agrees that instant replay needs fixing. Head injuries, and the NFL’s bumbling reaction to them, have just about everyone concerned.

Nevertheless, football remains America’s most popular spectator sport, according to the results of a Gallup poll released this week. Of the 1,049 respondents to the telephone survey conducted Dec. 4-11, 37 percent said football is their favorite sport to watch, and while that number is down from the all-time high of 43 percent in 2006 and 2007, it’s still far ahead of basketball (11 percent) and baseball (9 percent).

Football’s decline perhaps could be expected, given the negative stories coming out of the sport, but baseball’s decline might be more worrisome. It fell below double digits in the Gallup poll for the first time (the survey was first taken in 1937) and now barely is ahead of soccer, which garnered 7 percent of the responses, an all-time high and up 4 percentage points from the last poll in 2013.

The other answers: ice hockey (4 percent), auto racing (2 percent, tying the all-time low set in 2013) and tennis (2 percent). Golf, volleyball, boxing, gymnastics, motocross, ice/figure skating and rodeo all garnered 1 percent. “Other” received 5 percent. The margin of sampling error is +/- 4 percentage points.

Football did comparatively well in all age groups, with 30 percent of respondents ages 18 to 34, 40 percent of respondents ages 33 to 54 and 39 percent ages 55 and older saying it was their favorite spectator sport. The 30 percent football garnered in the youngest age group was more than basketball (11 percent), baseball (6 percent) and soccer (11 percent) combined.

Plus, football has maintained its lead over basketball in the poll. In this year’s survey, the gap between football and second-place basketball was 26 percentage points, only one point lower than in the previous poll and more than three points higher than the average gap between football and the second-place sport over the past 13 such polls (22.9 points). The closest any sport has gotten to football’s popularity in the poll was in March 2001, when there was only a 12-point difference between football and second-place basketball.

One number might cause worry for everyone involved in sports, however.

“The number of Americans who say they do not have a favorite sport has grown from 8% in 2000 to 15% now — an increase larger than for any sport during that time,” Gallup reports.

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