It’s no secret that NASCAR fans have acquired a stereotype.
When asked what the first thing that popped into her mind when thinking about NASCAR fans, my sister eloquently described them as “beer drinking hillbilly men.”
In her defense, when I got back into NASCAR in 2018, I had assumed the same thing. Growing up, the only NASCAR fans that I knew fit the description my sister had given me — with the exception of myself.
I had even put off making a Twitter account for racing because of it. I had been in other sport fandoms on Twitter and in my experience, young women were not particularly welcomed nor valued.
And erroneously I had assumed that NASCAR Twitter would be exclusively older men who wanted nothing to do with a young race fan who consumed NASCAR in the fandom-style way that I had.
Shocked doesn’t begin to tell you how I felt as I discovered that NASCAR Twitter was much different than my initial assumptions. It hadn’t taken long for me to connect with fans that were my age, female fans, LGBT fans. Fans who consumed the sport in similar ways that I did.
But beyond my circle of friends?
I wasn’t so sure.
So I put out a survey, hoping to get a glimpse of what NASCAR’s fanbase on Twitter looked like and 238 responses later, I think I have a better idea.
Basic questions were asked on the survey, questions ranging from favorite driver and favorite team. The survey also asked how long the participant had been a fan of NASCAR and how long they had been active on NASCAR Twitter. The survey then asked participants for more information about themselves, such as their age, sexuality and gender identity.
The age of NASCAR Twitter was unsurprising. In fact, 59% of the survey participants indicated that they were under the age of twenty-five while an additional 30.8% indicated that they were under the age of thirty-five.
This does bring up the issue with the survey ran — NASCAR Twitter does not truly reflect the NASCAR fan base as a whole because older fans are less likely to be on Twitter at all.
For this article, I had posted a similar survey into Facebook groups geared towards NASCAR fans with the intention of being able to compare and contrast the different demographics.
Despite my best efforts, I only received 26 responses. While this sample size was much smaller and less reliable, I had to note that 46% of the respondents were over the age of forty-five.
This seems consistent with a study that Pew Research published on the ages of those who use specific platforms. Only 18% of 50-64 year olds and 7% of 65+ year olds use Twitter compared to 73% and 50% respectively that use Facebook.
All that to say this: the Twitter demographics survey data does not fully represent the NASCAR fan base. Any conclusion that can be drawn from this data has to be drawn with that fact in mind.
The survey represents a small corner of Twitter, mostly those who have less than six degrees of separation from me. Such a small sliver — considering NASCAR’s Twitter account has 3.4 million followers — but the information that can be gleaned from the survey reinforces the idea that the stereotypes that NASCAR fans carry are misguided.
When looking at the data at gender, the results are pretty straight forward and expected, 70% of the respondents identify as male, while 24% identified as female with an additional 4.2% identifying themselves as non-binary.
Interestingly, these results diverge from the 2019 study that Nielsen Scarborough conducted. In that study, 63% of NASCAR fans identified as male while 37% identified as female.
The difference can be chalked down to an unreliable sample size or it could mean that female fans are less likely to make Twitter accounts and immerse themselves into NASCAR Twitter. It’s hard to make that determination off this survey alone but in my experiences as a feminine-coded person, and knowing the experiences of my friends who identify as female, I could see why women would be reluctant to join NASCAR Twitter.
Women and feminine-coded people often find themselves targets of unwanted attention from male fans in the form of comments and direct messaging, as well as having opinions dismissed for being a woman. In fact, when Taylor (@mashtaylor22) ran an informal poll for a class in the spring, 72% of women reported feeling treated less than in NASCAR Twitter for being a woman.
While this topic should have a whole article devoted to it, it still should be mentioned that women are reluctant to occupy spaces such as NASCAR Twitter and the survey results potentially back this conclusion.
At first glance, knowing just shy of 70% of respondents that answered about their sexuality identified as straight doesn’t seem entirely surprising at all.
In fact, when I posed the question to my Twitter followers, most guessed that somewhere around 70-75% of the respondents would be heterosexual men. And when you isolate only the men that answered, they were right — 75% of those who responded to the survey that identified as men do identify as heterosexual, but that leaves 25% who identify as members of the LGBT community.
Interestingly, the split for women is different. 60% of the respondents who identified as women also identified as heterosexual, meaning 40% identify as members of the LGBT community.
However, when the data is broken down further, with all of the respondents, the data tells us that heterosexual men account for about 53% of the survey’s respondents and heterosexual women account for 14% of respondents. Approximately 32% of those who took the survey identified as LGBT.
The survey found that almost 64% of the LGBT fans that participated in the survey had joined NASCAR Twitter within the last two years.
It feels almost certain that the 2020 NASCAR season played a role in this.
Just days after NASCAR broke their unspoken rule on not directly engaging with politics, President Steve Phelps giving an anti-racism message, NASCAR also issued a statement announcing their involvement with the You Can Play Pride Auction. This marked the first time that NASCAR had recognized Pride Month.
To mark the beginning of Pride Month in 2021, NASCAR announced that they were going to be supporting The Trevor Project, a non-profit that focuses on sucide prevention of LGBT+ youth. According to The Trevor Project’s website, NASCAR donated at least $50k to the Trevor Project.
That’s not to say that NASCAR recognizing Pride Month and partnering with the Trevor Project drew these LGBT fans to NASCAR, only 8% of the LGBT fans have been fans of NASCAR for less than two years. This means that LGBT fans in particular feel safer joining the NASCAR community on Twitter and while I have no data to back this up, I hope that means that other minorities feel safer joining NASCAR Twitter as well.
NASCAR’s concentrated effort to improve diversity within the sport has paid off immensely if this survey is a tiny glimpse into what the fanbase looks like. Long gone is the stereotype of NASCAR fans, the stereotype of a “drunk hillbilly” as my sister had described. NASCAR fans are diverse. From age, to gender and sexuality, NASCAR’s fan base is moving in a direction where all fans are welcomed and even celebrated.
This post was a collaboration between Kate and Taylor Mash.
Kate would also like to note that they describe themselves as a woman early on in the article because when they joined NASCAR Twitter, they identified as such. Kate now identifies as non-binary and asks that you use they/them pronouns when referring to them.