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Finals fever: Bulldogs and Swans fans compared

Source: Roy Morgan Single Source (Australia), July 2015-June 2016, n=873. Base: Australians 14+ who support Sydney Swans or Western Bulldogs

Even the 12 million Australians who don’t support an AFL team would probably be aware that this Saturday’s AFL Grand Final is shaping up to be an historic Battle Royale, as the Western Bulldogs break their 55-year Grand Final drought to meet Finals habitués, the Sydney Swans. So how do the teams’ supporters stack up against each other? Are they as different as the teams they support? Roy Morgan reveals all…  

The most immediately striking difference between the two teams’ fan bases is the size of each. As of June 2016, the Swans were the AFL’s most popular team, with 1.1 million supporters (or a mighty 14.5% of the country’s total footy fans!), while Bulldogs fans numbered some 249,000 – or 3.3% of all AFL supporters.

The Doggies may have fewer supporters (although their performance during this Finals series will no doubt win them some more – watch this space!), but they do boast the League’s most gender-balanced fan base: 49.9% men and 50.1% women. In contrast, 58.4% of Sydney supporters are men and 41.6% women.  

Of the two teams’ supporters, Sydney’s tend to be slightly older, with a mean age of 47 years, compared with 44 years for Western Bulldogs fans. It is worth noting that a slightly higher proportion of Bulldogs supporters are aged 65 and older (19.2% vs 18.4%) – old enough to remember their team’s last Grand Finals appearance more than half a century ago (back in the days when Sydney was still South Melbourne…)

Swans supporters vs Bulldogs supporters: vital stats


Source: Roy Morgan Single Source (Australia), July 2015-June 2016, n=873. Base: Australians 14+ who support Sydney Swans or Western Bulldogs

When it comes to the strength of their fans’ commitment, Roy Morgan data suggests that passions will be running particularly high among Western Bulldogs supporters this Saturday (and not simply because their team is in its first Grand Final for over half a century). Not only are 16.3% paid-up members of the club (compared with 4.8% of Sydney Swans fans), but 32.1% attend AFL matches (vs 26.7%) and 75.3% watch the AFL on TV (vs 65.1%). Bulldogs supporters are also more than twice as likely as Swans fans to play Australian Rules footy (10.4% vs 4.4%) themselves.

And the differences between Bulldogs and Swans supporters don’t stop there. Delving into Roy Morgan’s attitudinal and behavioural data reveals some interesting divergences…

Swans supporters vs Bulldogs supporters: how their attitudes and activities vary


Source: Roy Morgan Single Source (Australia), July 2015-June 2016, n=873. Base: Australians 14+ who support Sydney Swans or Western Bulldogs (NB: alcohol data for supporters 18+)

Norman Morris, Industry Communications Director, Roy Morgan Research, says:

“As another AFL Grand Final rolls around, so too does Roy Morgan’s annual comparison of each team’s supporters. Unlike some years, when both groups of fans share many similarities, Bulldogs and Swans fans are noticeably different.

“One key difference is how much more involved Bulldogs supporters are with AFL, being over three times more likely than Sydney supporters to be financial members of their club, as well as showing greater inclination to attend matches and watch them on TV. Considering their team hasn’t been in a Grand Final for 55 years, this makes sense—you’ve got to be very committed to stick it out with a perpetual underdog!

“The different political attitudes of each team’s fans is also noteworthy. Swans supporters are more likely than their Bulldogs counterparts (not to mention the average Australian) to believe the ‘Government is doing a good job running the country’: which is good news for Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who recently declared his support of the team at a UN conference in New York, no less!

“Bulldogs fans, on the other hand, are more likely than Swans supporters (and the average Aussie) to say they ‘don’t trust the current Australian Government’…which would probably please former PM Julia Gillard, one of the team’s highest-profile fans.

“Regardless of who wins on Saturday, we look forward to a spirited match between two worthy rivals…”

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About Roy Morgan

Roy Morgan is the largest independent Australian research company, with offices throughout Australia, as well as in Indonesia, the United States and the United Kingdom. A full service research organisation specialising in omnibus and syndicated data, Roy Morgan has over 70 years’ experience in collecting objective, independent information on consumers.

Margin of Error

The margin of error to be allowed for in any estimate depends mainly on the number of interviews on which it is based. Margin of error gives indications of the likely range within which estimates would be 95% likely to fall, expressed as the number of percentage points above or below the actual estimate. Allowance for design effects (such as stratification and weighting) should be made as appropriate.

Sample Size

Percentage Estimate


25% or 75%

10% or 90%

5% or 95%