Call it the nerds against the jocks.
It's Super Tuesday vs. the Super Bowl, two huge events on the political and sports calendars coming down the pike just a few days apart. And while each has its own brand of devotee, it turns out that the two are almost equally anticipated by the American public.
Asked which they're more excited about, 40 percent in this ABC News/Washington Post poll cite the Super Bowl, which kicks off this Sunday at 6:17 p.m. But in a near-upset, very nearly as many, 37 percent, say they're more keyed up about Super Tuesday.
Each is unique this year: A New England Patriots victory over the New York Giants would produce the first undefeated record for an NFL team in 36 years. On Super Tuesday, an unprecedented 24 states are holding presidential nominating contests. Both events promise chills, thrills and smackdowns; the presidential candidates may not have the crowd-pleasing benefit of cheerleaders, but their contact sport is played without pads.
Fandom has a lot to do with it: Half of Americans describe themselves as football fans, and 63 percent of fans are more excited about the championship game than about the upcoming primaries. But among the half of Americans who aren't fans, Super Tuesday holds greater interest by more than a 30-point margin, 48-17 percent.
Men (who are likelier to be fans) are more interested in Sunday's game, but by a smaller gap than you might expect, 48 percent to 34 percent. And women are more apt to be excited by Super Tuesday than by the Super Bowl, 40 to 32 percent.
The most influential factor in the split is level of education. Among college graduates, 53 percent are more excited by Super Tuesday than by the ball game, while 33 percent pick the game – a 20-point tilt in favor of the political battlefield. Meanwhile, among those who haven't gone beyond high school, the Super Bowl's of greater interest by nearly as wide a margin, 45-28 percent.
There's only a little regional bias, despite it being an all-Northeast football game this year. Northeasterners and Southerners alike are a little more likely to be excited by the game than by the political primaries. Midwesterners and Westerners divide more evenly.
Democrats, who've been particularly engaged in politics this year, are more interested in Super Tuesday than in the Super Bowl by an 8-point margin. Republicans divide about evenly, and independents – who tend to be less engaged in politics – are more excited about the game, by a 10-point spread.
WATCH – Six in 10 Americans say they plan to watch the big game Sunday – 72 percent of men versus half of women. Intended viewing is higher among younger and better-off adults, two groups highly prized by advertisers.
Hype around Super Bowl commercials is so great that, perhaps surprisingly, 15 percent of intended viewers say they'll be watching more for the advertisements than for the game itself. Still, three-quarters say they're tuning in for the football, thank you very much.
WINNERS – In another surprise result, while nearly eight in 10 fans think the Patriots will cap off their perfect season with another win, that's not the preferred outcome: By 52-43 percent, fans say they'd rather see the Giants win.
METHODOLOGY – This ABC News/Washington Post poll was conducted by telephone Jan. 25-29, 2008, among a random national sample of 1,019 adults. The results have a 3-point error margin. Field work by ICR-International Communications Research of Media, Pa.