Marist Center for Sports Communication/Marist Poll: Women’s Sports, November 2021

At a moment when women’s sports are surging, a new survey by the Center for Sports Communication at Marist College in collaboration with the Marist Poll reports the majority of sports fans say women’s sports do not get enough media coverage and that women deserve more representation as coaches and managers.

Among sports fans, 56% say that women’s sports do not get enough coverage, with that number increasing as viewers get younger until it reaches 68% among sports fans aged 18 to 29. The poll was conducted during the months of September and October.

Center for Sports Communication Director Jane McManus points to increased ratings for many women’s sports, and that women in sports lead the way in fan engagement on social media. These survey results point in the same direction as those trends.

“Sports broadcasters have been slow to embrace women’s sports with live coverage, infrastructure like sport-specific shows or even just including women in the sports conversations on TV and talk radio,” says McManus. “This poll adds additional data to the idea that sports fans’ interests are not being met.”

Cultural divisions are present as well, with sports fans who are Black (79%) more likely to say they follow women’s sports at least a little. Sports fans who are Black (56%), Latino (52%), under 30 (55%), and women (50%) are more likely than white sports fans (34%) and sports fans as a whole (41%) to say that there are not enough women in sports as broadcasters or reporters.

“It is interesting to see that sports fans who are younger, women, or people of color all seemed to align with the belief that there is not enough coverage of women’s sports and that there are not enough women working in sports media,” says Dr. Zachary Arth, Assistant Professor of Sports Communication at Marist College.

“On the other hand, sports fans who are older, male, or white tend to believe there is already the right amount of women working in sports media,” Arth said.

Among those who follow women’s sports, WNBA games are the most viewed by sports fans (26%), followed by soccer (14%), tennis (9%), volleyball (8%) and softball (8%).

About a third of sports fans (34%) said they don’t watch women’s sports at all. Interestingly, younger fans (37%) are also more likely to say they didn’t watch women’s sports. This raises questions about whether sports fans consume women’s sports in the same way they do men’s, or whether a lack of comparable coverage makes it more difficult to follow women’s sports. This is an area for potential future research.

“What’s clear is that majorities of sports fans would like women to have greater visibility and authority in sports generally,” McManus said. “Nearly 50 years after Title IX, the fans are ready to see it.”