In 2014, back when the expression “Facebook data” evoked visions of novel insights into the whims of the American populace instead of nefarious British psychomarketers, the social-media company partnered with the New York Times to create a remarkable map of baseball fandom.
Broken down into counties and then into Zip codes, the map showed fans of each team as a splotch, mostly centered on the cities where the teams played. There were exceptions — the Kansas City Royals and the St. Louis Cardinals jockeying for space in Missouri, for example — but regional loyalty was immediately apparent.
But the Facebook data wasn’t limited to the most popular team in each place. Instead, the top four most-popular teams were identified, and it was there that the map turned from interesting to tragic.
For you see, dear reader, it turns out that a lot of Americans really like the New York Yankees.
We pride ourselves, as Americans, on the idea that we root for the underdog. We don’t want the Patriots to win; we want the Eagles. We don’t want Cobra Kai to win; we want Daniel to do that swan-kick thing. And we say we don’t want the Yankees to win their 200th World Series — but, tragically, we do. Deep in our American hearts, it seems, we want the rich unsympathetic bullies to continue their baseball dominance. Deep inside our American spirit, there’s a murky shadow.
Anyway, we took that Facebook data and did politics to it.
Here was our thinking: What if we took the county-level baseball fan data and compared that to county-level 2016 election results? In theory it would allow us to see the places that were both most supportive of particular teams and most supportive of individual candidates. It isn’t perfect: We basically applied the percentage of fans of each team in a county to the number of votes cast for Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton and third-party candidates in each place. But overall, the results are clearly representative.
We begin at the 10,000-foot level. Here is each team, represented by a pie chart showing the total number of voters favoring each team (the size of the pie) and the split of votes among those fans (the pie slices).
Update: Each team except the poor Toronto Blue Jays, whose absence from the Facebook data we only noticed once it was brought to our attention. Canadians likely didn’t cast many votes for either candidate, though, so it probably doesn’t matter much.
It takes a second for patterns to emerge. The California teams have more blue than red; the Texas teams more red than blue. The Yankees, based in dark-blue New York, look like about an even split. Why? Because the Yankees are, lamentably, a national team, meaning that a lot of people in a lot of counties, red and blue, somehow don’t find the Yankees to be a grotesque abomination. The New York Mets, with a smaller, more regional and less amoral fan base, has a larger percentage of Clinton supporters — since it’s still New York.
A quick caveat is in order. Fandom is not as static as we pretend. The Houston Astros are relatively small on this 2014 map, but it’s safe to assume that, following their World Series win, a lot more people identify as Astros fans than they used to.
If we look at percentage of support, the team with the highest density of Trump fans is the Cincinnati Reds. Our methodology has about 6 in 10 Reds fans as Trump voters — since the Reds fan base is centered in southwestern Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana.
Compare the Reds to one of the least Trump-friendly fan bases, that of the San Francisco Giants. The most heavily supportive counties for the Giants are also much less likely to back Trump — since they’re mostly around San Francisco. Reds counties are pretty consistent in Trump support, regardless of how much they like the Reds.
But San Francisco is too popular outside of the Bay Area to be the most-Clinton-friendly team. That honor goes to the less-popular Oakland A’s. (The Washington Nationals, based in the county where Clinton performed the best, came in second.)
We extend the idea: The team with the most fans who supported third parties is likely the Colorado Rockies. (The Giants make the top five here, too.)
The team whose fan base looks the most like the election results? The Chicago Cubs, with a split that was only about 2 combined percentage points away from the actual election results.
The second-most-representative team was the Milwaukee Brewers. Maybe Clinton should have gone to a game at Miller Park sometime before Election Day.
Bonus from last June: The all-time regular-season records of each team in the majors against each other team.