What are Sports Betting Debate Graphs?

Sports betting debate graphs are bar charts that show the progression in public opinion over the course of a sporting event. The charts are usually created using polling data that is collected while the event is taking place. Once the event has ended, the polls are then sorted into sets based on the initial outcomes of the matches (i.e. if the home team wins, the set is sorted into “home win” bars, and similarly for the away team). Charts showing the public opinion on a range of issues are then created by comparing the bar sets for each issue.

An example of a sports betting debate graph for the U.S. presidential election of 2016 is shown below. The polls were conducted from October 7 – October 10, 2016, immediately after the third and final presidential debate on October 10. The debate took place at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York.

The graphs show Hillary Clinton leading Donald Trump in most of the match-ups tested (the “match” in statistics), with the exception of the “gender gap” on the following issues:

  • immigration
  • terrorism
  • trade
  • moral values
  • ethics in government
  • government ethics

On the above issues, Trump outperformed expectations, gaining support among men and among whites. However, Clinton won the overall election despite Trump’s unexpected showing on these issues. The following section examines the evolution of public opinion on the key issues over the course of the 2016 presidential campaign.


The graph above shows that immigration was among the most hotly contested issues of the campaign, with both candidates expressing opposing views on the subject. Trump, the Republican nominee, called for a “total and complete shutdown” of all immigration to the U.S. and pledged to build a wall along the Mexico border (a key campaign promise)—a stance that won him support among Republicans and right-leaning independent voters. Despite this, Clinton, the Democratic nominee, supported allowing some immigrants in the country legally and promised to do more to ensure those already here can stay.

According to the graph, opinions on the issue had not changed much by the time of the 2016 election. There was little difference between Clinton and Trump supporters on this issue before the campaign even began. The one major exception was that Trump performed worse among Latino voters—a group that could potentially turn out in high numbers in November—than any Republican nominee in recent memory. Since then, Trump has made multiple racist and anti-immigrant statements, which could explain the shift in Latino voters’ opinions of the candidate.

The following graph shows how opinions on immigration evolved over the course of the 2015-16 NBA season, using a poll conducted by CNN and ORC about a month after each game.

Like the 2016 presidential election, the 2015-16 NBA season was also marked by a contentious debate about immigration. The topic came up often during the season, with players and coaches from both sides of the political spectrum expressing their opinions on the matter.

The first game of the season was LeBron James vs. Chris Paul in a battle of the celebrities. James, a four-time NBA champion and one of the greatest ever to play the game, is an international superstar who has spoken out against Trump’s proposed border wall. On the other side, Chris Paul is a 12-time NBA champion and one of the longest-tenured current players in the league. He also happens to be one of the most well-liked athletes in all of sports—despite being a Republican. The following graph shows how the players’ opinion on immigration evolved throughout the 2015-16 season.

As the season went on, the gap in opinion between the two became more apparent. The day before the season finale on June 17—a game between James and Kevin Durant—52% of respondents said they supported a path to citizenship for the country’s undocumented residents, while 45% said they opposed it. The next day, the poll’s authors wrote, the “opinions of NBA fans shifted dramatically in favor of the immigrants,” with 75% supporting a path to citizenship and only 20% opposed.

The shift was even more extreme among respondents who identified themselves as baseball fans. In a recent poll, 76% were in favor of a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants and only 18% were opposed. In a similar poll from last year, 76% supported a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants and only 16% were opposed.

Moral Values

In the same way that immigration and terrorism were among the most contentious issues during the 2016 presidential election, so too were moral values and ethics in government among the most debated topics during the 2015-16 NBA season. This is not entirely surprising, as the two presidential candidates made their views on these issues clear throughout the campaign. Hillary Clinton, the Democratic nominee, said Trump’s previous comments about women and immigrants made her uncertain about supporting him even before the election. The following graph shows how respondents’ opinions on these issues evolved throughout the 2015-16 season.

Clinton had campaigned on a promise to restore ethical standards to the Oval Office. During the first year of her presidency, there have already been a number of high-profile incidents that have called her commitment to this into question, including an email leak from within the White House that showed administration officials scheming to undermine her presidential campaign.

The following graph shows that the Democratic nominee did not fare well among Republican and independent voters during the 2016 election. The one place she did well was among respondents who described themselves as “morally upright”.

Among this group, Clinton was supported by 73% compared to Trump’s 26%. The next highest level of support for the Republican nominee came among “traditional” Republicans (68%) and “strong” Republicans (64%).

Meanwhile, the following graph documents how respondents’ views on ethics in government changed throughout the 2015-16 season.

The NBA used to be a bit more ethical than the NFL. Back in the day, players wouldn’t even consider putting a shirt on their backs for the opposing team’s fans. These days, the reverse is becoming increasingly common, as the above graph shows—more and more fans are expressing disgust for their players’ apparent lack of sportsmanship. It seems like the good old days of the NBA are long gone.

Ethics In Government

Respondents’ opinions on ethical standards in government took a sharp turn for the worse during the 2016 election, with Trump’s election sparking a major backlash against lobbyists and career politicians. The following graph documents this political shift.

According to the graph, only 33% of respondents thought that political campaign donations influence government decisions, compared to 68% who said this in 2014. Additionally, only 38% of respondents said that government officials should only make decisions based on what’s best for the country, compared to 62% who said this in 2014. Meanwhile, the percentage of respondents who think that government officials should “always put the country’s interest first, even if it means unfair advantage to others” jumped up by 11 percentage points to 49% in 2016 compared to 38% in 2014.

A majority of respondents (58%) also said that they believe government ethics have gotten worse under President Obama, while only 16% said they believe they have improved.

Government Ethics

The last major issue in the 2016 election was government ethics. Respondents took a major hit on this issue, with only 27% saying they had a lot of trust in government while 62% had little or no trust. Additionally, 28% of respondents thought that government ethics had gotten worse since Obama took office, compared to 24% who said it had improved. These results are a clear indication of how much the 2016 election shook respondents’ faith in the integrity of their government.

The following graph documents how respondents’ opinions on the issue of government ethics changed throughout the 2015-16 season.

The one bright spot in the 2015-16 season was the improvement in respondents’ faith in government. This can be partly credited to the fact that more Americans now have an opinion on this issue (62%) than have had one in a long time (54%), according to the graph’s authors. Additionally, since the election, 43% of respondents say they now have a lot of trust in government, compared to only 29% who said this before the election.

However, it’s important to keep in mind that not all of the issues that were on the table in the 2016 election have fixed opinions. For example, there is still no consensus among Republicans about whether the U.S. should have supported the war in Iraq or if it was a mistake to get involved in the first place. But the issues that were on the table were enough to shake the faith of even the most committed voters.