And when Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and the three musketeers get on stage on Tuesday night for the first Democratic primary debate, people in those cities will definitely have their televisions on. And the televisions will be tuned to baseball.
At 8:07 p.m. Eastern, the New York Mets host the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Chicago Cubs play earlier, at 4:37 p.m., but there's no guarantee that the game will be over by the time the debate starts. What's more, both the Cubs and Mets could clinch their series on Tuesday, meaning a longer post-game show and, particularly for Cubs fans, an increased likelihood of intoxication.
It's hard to know in advance how many viewers will miss the debate because they are instead watching baseball. Some people are forced to watch the debate as part of their jobs, when they would instead like to see the Mets play, but such heroes probably only account for a small percentage of the total population. What we can do is estimate.
A few bits of data up front:
- 44,000 people will not watch the debate because they will physically be at the Mets game in Queens. (Attendance for game 3 of the series on Monday night was a bit higher than that.)
- At least 4.2 million people will watch the game on television. That's the number that watched the second game of the series, and with the possibility of a Mets clinch, that number will probably go up.
- Not to mention the fact that Chase Utley's (criminal??) slide in the second game, breaking Ruben Tejada's leg spurred increased interest in the third game. Utley, a known coward, didn't make an appearance, so people will still be looking to see what happens if he plays on Tuesday.
How many of those 4.2-million-plus people live in New York and Los Angeles isn't clear. In 2014, 6.5 percent of the nation's homes were in New York City. Another 4.9 percent were in Los Angeles. Meaning that even if the game tonight didn't feature teams from those cities, a higher number of people watching would come from those places.
Of course, not everyone who watches will be a Democrat. New York City had 3.1 million Democrats in April. Los Angeles had 2.5 million in February. That's 68.5 and 80.3 percent, respectively. (In New York, Queens has more Democrats than Manhattan and the Bronx, where no baseball is being played any time soon thanks to Alex Rodriguez's hilarious inability to ever get a hit when needed.) So perhaps most people in New York and L.A. that are watching the game will be Democrats that Martin O'Malley desperately wants to tune in.
But maybe not as many as you might think. In 2010, a Republican firm looked at the partisanship of sports fans, finding that baseball fans skew slightly more Republican than fans of tennis or the NBA. Not as much as NASCAR or the NFL, we'll note, but still: Slightly more Republican.
Won't some people who might watch the game instead switch over to the debate? In other words, doesn't it work both ways? The answer to that is no.
So, revisiting those numbers. Let's say that New York and L.A. are a larger percentage of the national viewership than normal. Let's also say that the viewership will be slightly more Republican than the cities on the whole. And let's assume that the possibility of a Mets clinch will goose ratings by a bit.
In that case, we might assume that of 4.5 million viewers, 7.5 percent will be in New York and 5.6 percent in L.A. (a 15 percent boost). Of those viewers, estimate that 65 percent are Democrats in New York and 75 percent are Democrats in Los Angeles.
That's 219,000 Dems watching in New York and 189,000 in Los Angeles. Or, 408,000 big-city Democrats who would rather watch the excellent New York Mets baseball squadron than watch Jim Webb and Lincoln Chafee talk about the metric system. In terms of normal debate viewership — generally in the 6 million people range — that’s a decent-sized dent.
As for the Cubs? If the Cubs-St. Louis Cardinals (21st-largest television audience) game goes into extra innings as the Cubs have a chance to clinch, anyone who switches over to the debate will be run out of town on a rail and not welcome back any time soon. Meaning that their votes wouldn't count anyway.