Could a gubernatorial election hinge on the Gophers?

Still think sports is irrelevant?

A Loyola Marymount University study is drawing a link between the outcome of sports events and the outcome of political elections, lending credibility, Discover reports, to the evidence that “voting decisions aren’t just based on objective and well-reasoned analysis, despite their importance in democratic societies. They can be influenced by completely irrelevant events, putting the fate of politicians into the hands (or feet) of sportsmen.”

According to researcher Andrew Healy “if a local college football team wins a match in the ten days before a Senate, gubernatiorial or even presidential election, the incumbent candidate tends to get a slightly higher proportion of the vote.”

A victory by the local squad, Healy says, puts voters in a more positive frame of mind and that’s all to the good for incumbents. He looked at counties that had teams in the Bowl Championship Series in elections between 1964 and 2008 for his data. Oddly, the BCS didn’t exist, though, until 1998. But why quibble with such facts?

Does the phenomenon hold true for Minnesota. It’s hard to say since the research doesn’t say a candidate will win or lose based on the football results, only that the total votes received will be higher or lower. Healy says the value of a team win is about 1 percentage point.But let’s look anyway:

Year Gophers Opponent Result Incumbent
2006 Indiana Win 63-26 Won
2002 Ohio State Loss 34-3 No incumbent
1998 Michigan Loss 15-10 No incumbent
1994 Wisconsin Won 17-14 Won
1990 Wisconsin Won 21-13 Lost
1986 Michigan State Loss 52-23 Won
1982 Michigan Loss 52-14 No incumbent
1978 Indiana Win 32-31 Lost
1974 Northwestern Loss 21-14 Won
1970 Iowa Tie 14-14 No incumbent
1966 Ohio State Win 17-7 Lost

In the three times since 1966 that a sitting governor of Minnesota has been turned out of office by voters, the Gophers won the previous Saturday.

The question now is whether this alleged phenomenon translates to geographic areas that aren’t quite so college football-rabid. Does a Minnesota Wild team win do the same thing for Minnesota? And what about the Timberwolves? If so, write if you get work, incumbents.

Update 3:44 p.m. – Several people on Twitter suggested the cause-and-effect might be more noticeable with the Vikings, rather the Gophers. The results are even more tenuous with the purple.

Year Vikings Opponent Result Incumbent
2006 San Francisco Loss 9-3 Won
2002 Tampa Bay Loss 38-24 No incumbent
1998 Tampa Bay Loss 27-24 No incumbent
1994 Tampa Bay Win 36-13 Won
1990 Denver Win 27-22 Lost
1986 Washington Loss 44-38 Won
1982 No Game – Strike   No incumbent
1978 Detroit Win 17-7 Lost
1974 Chicago Win 17-0 Won
1970 Detroit Win 30-17 No incumbent
1966 San Francisco Win 28-3 Lost
  • Bill Gleason


    Why do you waste your time on this? Slow news day?

    Bill Gleason

  • john

    I think it’s job to to find the little stories. In fact it says almost exactly that in the npr radio ad about Bob.

  • I for one find Bob’s stuff refreshing.

    As Peter Sagal once said, Public Radio fans are serious people. Levity IS a good thing.

  • Bob Collins

    You know, Bill, from time to time I put out calls here on News Cut for people like you to tell me about people they know who they think I should write about. It sounds like you’ve got someone — or some thing — in mind.

    As I’ve said before, I’ll go anywhere, and talk to anybody.

  • Steve

    If Jim Wacker hadn’t won in Madison we might have ended up with Gov. Marty.

  • Bill Gleason


    Most of the time, I enjoy your stuff. This piece just seemed so contrived, I was surprised…

    We have a helluva mess over at the U of M. The more public scrutiny we have about what is going on, the better. Folks like you can make a difference because the Morrill Hall Gang is very concerned about their image, but not much else.