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Expand chart
Data: Taboola; Table: Kavya Beheraj/Axios

Politics and hard news have moved to the back burner of the national conversation, with sports — and particularly the NFL — generating more interest, new data shows.

Why it matters: It's a huge shift from a year ago, when most of the top stories in the U.S. were about hot-button political topics.

By the numbers: Sports have rocketed to the top of Americans' news diets, according to pageview data from Taboola, a content recommendation company known for its boxes of thumbnail ads, which pulled data from 1,400 news sites.

  • The top 10 news topics last month included the NFL, football and ESPN, as well as a handful of cities that ended up on the list largely because of their sports teams — Houston (World Series runner-up Astros, Texans), Las Vegas (Raiders, Jon Gruden) and San Francisco (Giants, 49ers).
  • Last October, 18 of the top 20 stories were related to the national political conversation, led by "Trump," '"coronavirus," "Biden," "George Floyd," "White House" and "racism."

Bolstered by engaging storylines, including the resignation of Jon Gruden, the resurgence of the Dallas Cowboys, and most recently Aaron Rodgers' vaccination status, interest in the league has surged.

  • On television, the NFL is "is on pace to place a record high number of its games among TV’s top 100 telecasts this year, thanks to a significant rebound in game ratings combined with a further deterioration of entertainment viewership on TV," according to a report from Sports Business Journal.
  • Engagement on some of the NFL's biggest Instagram accounts was way up last month compared to October 2020: 30% for @nfl, 98% for @espnnfl and 57% for @nflonfox, according to data from CrowdTangle.
  • On the day of and the day following the House passage of the bipartisan infrastructure bill, there were more Google searches for Aaron Rodgers than Joe Biden, according to Google Trends data.

The big picture: Simultaneously, interest in politics has plunged.

  • Social media interactions (likes, comments, shares) on politics stories over the last 8 weeks have dropped 37% compared to late spring (before even the Afghanistan news began to ramp up), according to exclusive data from NewsWhip.
  • Engagement on the @POTUS Instagram account has steadily waned. Interactions in October were down 78% from February and 59% from June, according to CrowdTangle data.

Sports content in general has gained traction. Bleacher Report Football (soccer) was the most highly engaged publisher on Facebook in the third quarter, according to NewsWhip.

  • Overall, sports content posted natively “made a comeback on Facebook” during the third quarter.

Zoom out: Coronavirus remains the no. 1 news topic, but interest is falling — there were 1.44 billion page views in August, 1.02 billion in September and 677 million in October, according to Taboola's data.

  • Trump was the number two topic in October and has remained in the top 3 each month since leaving office.
  • After dropping out of the top 30 in the summer, 'vaccine' moved back into the top 10 in September and October.

Go deeper

Mapping Pennsylvania's Google searches on political issues

Data: Google Trends; Maps: Jacque Schrag/Axios

Pennsylvania's Google searches related to critical race theory occur more often in Democratic congressional districts, according to an Axios analysis of Google Trends data.

  • That includes the 4th and 6th Districts in Philadelphia's suburbs, represented by Rep. Madeleine Dean and Rep. Chrissy Houlahan.
  • Yes, but: The exception to this rule is the 1st District, where Republican Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick represents Bucks and Montgomery counties.

Why it matters: Both parties will use data and technology to pinpoint issues that will resonate locally with voters through the 2022 midterms, Axios' Stef Kight writes.

Updated 5 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Prosecutors charge parents of Michigan school shooting suspect

Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

The parents of a 15-year-old accused of killing four students and wounding seven other people at a Michigan high school have been charged with four counts of involuntary manslaughter, according to court documents.

The latest: Lawyers for James and Jennifer Crumbley told the Detroit News they are "returning to the area to be arraigned," after law enforcement officials announced a search for the Crumbleys had been initiated.

Updated 9 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

  1. Health: Coronavirus variant surveillance varies widely by state — Omicron cases confirmed in 5 U.S. states America probably won't lead the effort to understand Omicron.
  2. Vaccines: Omicron adds urgency to vaccinating world — Omicron fuels the case for COVID boosters — Moderna loses patent battles tied to COVID vaccine.
  3. Politics: Nevada to impose insurance surcharge on unvaccinated state workers — New Jersey GOP lawmakers defy statehouse COVID policy — Oklahoma sues Biden administration over Pentagon vaccine mandate — Omicron travel bans are sign of what's to come.
  4. World: WHO: Delta health measures help fight Omicron — COVID cases surge in South Africa in sign Omicron wave is coming — Germany approves new restrictions for unvaccinated people.
  5. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.