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Study: Football success translates into higher presidential approval ratings

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Members of the 2015 College Football Playoff National Champion Ohio State Buckeyes present President Barack Obama with a No. 44 jersey on a visit to the White House on April 20. Credit: Courtesy of Kevin Fitzsimons

Members of the 2015 College Football Playoff National Champion Ohio State Buckeyes present President Barack Obama with a No. 44 jersey on a visit to the White House on April 20.
Credit: Courtesy of Kevin Fitzsimons

The Buckeyes won again this week? Thanks, Obama.

A recent study conducted at Northwestern University concluded that the results of college football games affect how favorably people feel towards the president of the United States.

Based on the study, if a person’s favorite football team is successful, that person is more inclined to feel positively towards the president. On the flip side, if the team is in a slump, fans might transfer some of those feelings onto the U.S. government.

“There’s a lot of evidence that people who identify with certain sports teams show that when their team is successful, they feel more positive about the environments they’re in and they tend to feel better about themselves,” said Chip Eveland, an Ohio State professor in political science and communication theory. “People who strongly identify with a college sports team tend to feel better about everything when their team is successful because they bask in the glory of their team’s success.”

This correlation was found using surveys proctored before and after the 2015 College Football Playoff National Championship, when OSU defeated the the University of Oregon 42-20.

OSU and Oregon students were given the same survey about President Barack Obama before and after the championship game, and the results were clear: Regardless of how students felt about Obama before the game, OSU’s exhilaration at capturing the national championship translated into overwhelmingly positive support for Obama from Buckeyes fans.

On the other hand, Oregon students felt more negatively towards Obama than they did before the results of the game.

“There is definitely a subconscious diffuse of optimism or pessimism into other areas of your life when you watch your favorite team win or lose,” Eveland said.

Melissa Ma, a second-year in political science, said the results made sense to her.

“Even though OSU winning and Obama’s approval ratings don’t have anything to do with each other, it makes sense that OSU fans would rate something more positively after a big win,” said Ma. “OSU fans are happy about everything after they win a game.”

However, the positive approvals of Obama were not permanent. After a week, the same surveys about Obama were administered to the same group of OSU and Oregon students, and their answers aligned with the results from the original pre-game survey.

So although Obama can expect some support from OSU students based on the success of the football team, his presidential legacy probably cannot depend on it.

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