Fandom is not a term commonly used in politics, but fandom is fundamentally about passion and engagement with cultural entities. Whether sports, music, movies, or politics, fandom is a potent force that moves the world. In politics, candidates that inspire fandom can fill arenas and motivate people to wear their logos or messages (Make America Great Again, Change We Can Believe In). These candidates also raise grassroots money, attract volunteers, and ultimately win elections. Fandom leads to passion and engagement that dwarfs mere preference.
Why (Political) Fandom Matters:
Fans have exemplary engagement levels. Sports fans pay high prices, attend games, and act as billboards by wearing a team’s jersey. Political fans are especially willing to donate, volunteer, and advertise their candidates (shirts, hats, bumper stickers)
Fans are exceptionally knowledgeable. Intense sports fans know a team’s history and are eager to share their team’s stories with other fans and non-fans. Political fans are knowledgeable supporters who know their candidate's narratives and eagerly attempt to persuade other voters.
Fans often construct their social identity around their fandoms. As such, fans vigorously defend the subject of their fandom. Sports fans will explain away their team's scandals and attribute defeats to referees. Political fans will discount attacks and will passionately defend their party and candidates.
The opposite of fandom (Anti-Fandom or Apathy) provides an important signal. While a neutral person might be persuadable, an anti-fan will rarely support a hated team or candidate. A true Bears fan will NOT root for the Packers, and anti-Tumpers will NOT vote for Donald Trump.
Donald Trump is the overwhelming favorite. The use of fandom as the metric is critical, as his dominance is based on deep connections rather than momentary preferences. With 50% plus of likely Republican voters indicating they are fans of Trump, Trump's support is unlikely to decline, and candidates that attack Trump will suffer severe backlash (as they are essentially attacking Trump’s fans).
Ron DeSantis and Vivek Ramaswamy are the strongest alternatives (perhaps as VP choices). Nikki Haley and Tim Scott have lower core fandom and higher anti-Fandom.
The candidates who have most aggressively attacked President Trump have amazingly high rates of anti-Fandom. Chris Christie has a 90% rate of anti-fandom, controlling for awareness.
Donald Trump has the highest rate of fandom across all generational cohorts. Ramaswamy is number two for Gen Z and Millennials, while DeSantis is second in the Gen X and Boomer cohorts.
Trump has the lowest anti-Fandom in all generational cohorts. DeSantis has the second lowest anti-Fandom across all cohorts. Haley has extremely high anti-fandom in the younger demographics.
Trump, DeSantis, and Ramaswamy performed the best on the question of which candidate with whom you would most like to drink a beer or coffee. This question is critical as it suggests a willingness to further investigate a candidate.
The candidate that does the best with the segment of Republicans who have a favorable view of Joe Biden is Donald Trump. Ramaswamy and Christie also perform well in this segment.
The figure below shows the percentage of of Likely Republican Primary Voters for 4 demographic cohorts who are "Fans" of the top 7 Republican contenders.