Published on October 7, 2021 by Morgan Black  
Olympics Center
Darin White, executive director of the Center for Sports Analytics, and Alexander Harriman, a summer intern in the center, collaborated on the project.

Samford University’s Center for Sports Analytics was recently invited to contribute to a research project titled “Olympic and Paralympics Analysis 2020: Media, Fans and Politics of Sport.” Initiated by The University of Texas at Austin’s Center for Sports Communications & Media and Bournemouth University’s Centre for Comparative Politics and Media Research in the United Kingdom, the research captures the thoughts, reflections and insights of leading scholars in sport, media and politics while analyzing viewership trends of the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games. 

Over 100 scholars from around the globe provided authoritative analysis of the two events, including research findings and theoretical insights. Contributions to the final report came from a rich array of disciplinary influences, including media, communication studies, cultural studies, sociology, political science and psychology. 

Darin White, executive director of the Center for Sports Analytics, and Alexander Harriman, a summer intern in the center and Clemson University analytics student, analyzed data from 14.9 million tweets related to the summer Olympics during July 2021. Utilizing software provided by the center’s partner, Affinio, White and Harriman conducted a geographic analysis of the data to determine which U.S. cities and states had the highest level of social media engagement around the Olympics. 

According to White and Harriman, they found a clear difference in Olympic engagement in blue states compared to red states. 

“Out of the top 10 states by percentage of population tweeting about the Olympics, only two are considered red states (Idaho and Kentucky),” White said. “The top state in the U.S. tweeting about the Olympics was New York which had almost 1 million people tweet about the Olympics during July. Other top states in Olympic social media engagement included Massachusetts, Georgia, Rhode Island, Maine, Minnesota, New Mexico, and Colorado. All eight of these states voted for Joe Biden in last year’s election.” 

“Although both candidates won exactly 25 states in the 2020 election, Biden’s states were more invested in the Olympics compared to Donald Trump’s,” Harriman said. “Indeed, nine of the 11 states that were least engaged in the Summer Olympics (Utah, Arkansas, Kansas, Alabama, Indiana, Oklahoma, Iowa, South Dakota, and South Carolina) voted for Trump.” 

Their research was published on olympicanalysis.org and led to an article titled “Americans on Ideological Left More Engaged in Summer Olympics” which was published by the same site.

 
Samford is a leading Christian university offering undergraduate programs grounded in the liberal arts with an array of nationally recognized graduate and professional schools. Founded in 1841, Samford is the 87th-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. The Wall Street Journal ranks Samford 1st nationally for student engagement and U.S. News & World Report ranks Samford 37th in the nation for best undergraduate teaching and 97th nationally for best value. Samford enrolls 5,758 students from 48 states and 22 countries in its 10 academic schools: arts, arts and sciences, business, divinity, education, health professions, law, nursing, pharmacy and public health. Samford fields 17 athletic teams that compete in the tradition-rich Southern Conference, and ranks 3rd nationally for its Graduation Success Rate among all NCAA Division I schools.