Jordan Versus James: Michael is America's Favorite Sports Star while LeBron is Number Two

Serena Williams continues to dominate as America's Favorite Female Sports Star

Jul 17, 2013, 05:00 ET from Harris Interactive

NEW YORK, July 17, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- Many have asked the question – is he the greatest? How would he compete against some of the current basketball players on the hardwood? But, however that question is answered, there is no denying that Michael Jordan has staying power. A decade after retiring from the sport, Michael Jordan is America's Favorite sports star – a position he held throughout the 1990s, and an improvement from his tie for 3rd on the 2011 list.


Next on the list is current basketball player LeBron James at #2, returning to the top 10 after a one year absence. In at #3 is a former #1 – Tiger Woods, who topped the list 2006-2009 and tied for the top spot in 2010, moves up from #5 in 2011. Rounding out the top 5, at #4 and down from #2 is Peyton Manning, and up one spot is fellow quarterback Tom Brady, at #5.

These are some of the results of The Harris Poll of 2,210 adults surveyed online between June 12 and 17, 2013 by Harris Interactive. (Full findings, including data tables, available here)

Looking at the rest of the top 10 favorite sports stars, it's been a season of injuries for the last installment's #1, but Yankee's captain and shortstop Derek Jeter is still on the list in 6th place. Another basketball star is at #7 – Kobe Bryant, who drops from a tie for 3rd last time around. The top 10 then has two newcomers and a returning star. At #8, a football quarterback who has bounced around a lot in his few years in the NFL but currently plays for the New England Patriots – Tim Tebow joins the list, as does a long time golfer Phil Mickelson at #9. Rejoining the top 10 after a one year absence is NASCAR great Dale Earnhardt, Jr. in the #10 spot.  

Since there are two sports stars returning and two newcomers to the list, that means four stars dropped out of the top 10 this year. Those stars are: baseball slugger Albert Pujols and Pittsburgh Steelers player Hines Ward, who were previously tied for #7, along with basketball player Derrick Rose (was #9) and quarterback Aaron Rodgers (was #10).

Different groups have their different favorites. For men, LeBron James is #1, but for women it's Peyton Manning. There are also generational differences. As one of the dominant figures for a good part of their lives, Echo Boomers (those 18-35) say Michael Jordan is their favorite sports star, as do Gen Xers (those 36-47). For both Baby Boomers (those 48-66) and Matures (those 67 and older), Tiger Woods is their #1 pick. Politically, there are differences on the issues of today as well as who is the favorite sports star. Republicans say it is Peyton Manning; Democrats say it is LeBron James; and, Independents say their favorite sports star is Michael Jordan.

Favorite Female Sports Star

She may not have made it into the Wimbledon finals, but for the fourth time in a row, Serena Williams is the Favorite Female Sport Star. Serena is not only dominating in her four years at #1, but she is also the #1 pick for all demographic categories this year, including gender, generation and race/ethnicity.

Race car driver Danica Patrick moves up one spot to #2, while Venus Williams drops one spot to #3. Another tennis star, Maria Sharapova, is at #4 again this year, while soccer legend Mia Hamm remains at #5. The next five are all either new or returning after an absence from the top 10 list. Her father is considered "the greatest" by many, and now Layla Ali is making a name for herself, debuting at #6, while skiing star Lindsey Vonn, who survived a horrific crash (and made some headlines with her new boyfriend, who just happens to be on the top 10 list above) is new to the list at #7. Three Olympians round out the top ten: soccer star Hope Solo debuts at #8, while gymnast and past Dancing with the Stars winner Shawn Johnson returns to the list at #9. Soccer star Abby Wambach, who recently broke Mia Hamm's record for international career goals, debuts at #10. 

The five female sports starts who dropped off the top 10 list this year are tennis players Anna Kournikova (formerly at #6) and Martina Navratilova (previously #7), basketball star Sue Bird (was #8), gymnast Kerry Walsh (was tied for #9) and golfer Michele Wie (who was at the other end of the aforementioned tie for #9).

To see other recent Harris Polls, please visit the Harris Poll News Room.


This Harris Poll was conducted online within the United States June 12 to 17, 2013 among 2,210 adults (aged 18 and over). Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents' propensity to be online.

All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to multiple sources of error which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments. Therefore, Harris Interactive avoids the words "margin of error" as they are misleading. All that can be calculated are different possible sampling errors with different probabilities for pure, unweighted, random samples with 100% response rates. These are only theoretical because no published polls come close to this ideal.

Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Harris Interactive surveys. The data have been weighted to reflect the composition of the adult population. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in the Harris Interactive panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

These statements conform to the principles of disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

The results of this Harris Poll may not be used in advertising, marketing or promotion without the prior written permission of Harris Interactive.

Q860, 865, 870, 873

The Harris Poll® #46, July 17, 2013
By Regina A. Corso, SVP, Harris Poll and Public Relations, Harris Interactive

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