The Manziel Factor?
Hold on to your Horns! Could it be that the University of Texas Longhorns have really slipped behind the Texas A&M University Aggies in popularity in the Lone Star State?
A recent survey by Public Policy Polling found 22 percent of Texas voters identified themselves as Aggies sports fans, compared with 20 percent who declared their loyalty for the Longhorns.
“Texas A&M has caught up to Texas for having the largest fan base in the state.” — Public Policy Polling.
Next in line was the University of Houston (10 percent), followed by Baylor University (8 percent), Texas Tech University (5 percent), Texas Christian University (4 percent), the University of Texas at El Paso (3 percent) and Southern Methodist University (2 percent).
“Texas A&M has caught up to Texas for having the largest fan base in the state,” the polling firm said.
Of course, the Aggies’ shift to the Southeastern Conference in 2012 robbed Texans of the annual UT-A&M football rivalry on Thanksgiving Day — and robbed us of the chance to debate ferociously which school presides as king among the state’s collegiate sports fans.
In September 2011, Public Policy Polling also questioned Texans about their favorite college sports teams. In that poll, 23 percent of Texas voters said they were hooked by the Longhorns, while 15 percent pledged their allegiance to the Aggies. The polling firm noted that its 2011 survey preceded the Johnny Manziel era at Texas A&M, “and that seems to have changed the balance of power in the state a little bit.”
This year’s telephone poll surveyed 500 Texas voters. The poll’s margin of error was plus or minus 4.4 percentage points.
Not surprisingly, Texans’ opinions about Johnny Football are divided. In the poll, 26 percent of Texans viewed him favorably, while 23 percent gave the Aggies’ Heisman-winning quarterback a thumbs-down. Half of those polled had no opinion one way or the other.
Another of the state’s football heroes — former Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III — proved to be more popular. Thirty-six percent of the people surveyed cheered the Heisman winner, while 11 percent jeered him and 53 percent were uncertain. In a head-to-head matchup, Texans indicated they liked Griffin (28 percent) more than Manziel (23 percent).
In this year’s poll, Texas A&M ruled as the strong favorite among Republicans. GOP voters cast their ballots for A&M over UT by a margin of 35 percent to 16 percent. Meanwhile, Democratic voters sided with UT over A&M by a margin of 26 percent to 13 percent. At 15 percent, the University of Houston came in second among Democrats. Among independent voters, UT beat A&M (18 percent vs. 13 percent).
On the football field, A&M’s record stands at 8-2 and UT’s at 7-2. In one poll that truly matters — the Associated Press football poll — A&M ranks 10th and UT ranks 23rd.
Off the football field, A&M reigns as the largest university in the state, with fall 2013 enrollment hitting a record 58,809. At No. 2 is UT, with fall 2013 enrollment of 52,076.