Matthew Postoski and R. Urbatsch have written this article for the Journal of Politics. Here is the abstract:
Raising the opportunity cost of people’s time may reduce their commitment to social obligations such as voting. Notably, entertaining sporting events can be strong civic distractions, as commentators throughout history have lamented. To consider sporting events’ influence on political behavior, this paper examines the effect of Monday Night Football games the day before US general elections from 1970 to 2014. More attractive games, such as those that feature more prominent and competitive match-ups or that feature local or high-scoring teams, may entice people to consume more entertainment and thus have less time to devote to civic affairs. When preelection football game quality increases from its 25th to 75th percentile, voter turnout falls by between 2 and 8 percentage points. These effects are somewhat weaker among those more interested in politics and do not appear in placebo tests on other political behaviors occurring before the preelection game.