(Reuters) - He won’t be in this Sunday’s Super Bowl and his Denver Broncos are already 50-to-1 longshots for next year’s National Football League title, but if Tim Tebow swapped the pigskin for politics, he just might be a shoo-in for the White House.
Asked which NFL playoff quarterback they would choose for president of the United States in the coming election, more than one in four voters go for Tebow, according to the results of a new Reuters/Ipsos poll of likely voters released on Friday.
Tebow’s success on the field in the past few months helped to make him a media sensation as he turned a struggling Denver Broncos team around. His open and oft-professed religious faith gained him huge support in the evangelical community.
But perhaps it is his famous post-touchdown knelt-in-prayer pose - known as “Tebowing” - that has most inspired fans around the world. Many have posted pictures of themselves “Tebowing” on sites such as Tebowing.com.
The online survey of 2,475 people was conducted earlier this week, just ahead of the Super Bowl, the annual championship for America’s most popular sport.
The precision of the Reuters/Ipsos online polls is measured using a credibility interval. In this case, the poll has a credibility interval of plus or minus 2.3 percentage points.
Tebow managed to do something in the poll he could not quite manage on the field - easily beat New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.
Brady, who is married to super model Gisele Bundchen, came third, one percentage point behind New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning, ironic since they face each other this Sunday in the Super Bowl.
The only other quarterback to start in the playoffs this year who got into double digits in the poll was New Orleans’ Drew Brees, at 15 percent.
Of course, at 24, Tebow is too young by the standards of the U.S. Constitution to be president (you have to be at least 35). There might also be questions over whether he could be disqualified because he was born in the Philippines - his parents were American missionaries.
But this isn’t real life, this is football.
“For all the support I‘m very appreciative, it means a lot,” Tebow told Reuters on the sidelines of the pre-game festivities for the Super Bowl in Indianapolis.
Asked if he would consider a political career at some stage he said: “Maybe one day in the future, not right now though.”
Tebow was the overwhelming first choice of Republicans in the poll, taking 39 percent of their vote, while he was second to Manning among Democrats and third among those identifying themselves as independent.
Geographically, his biggest strength was in the south and the west, where he nearly doubled his closest rivals’ support. Before the NFL, Tebow was a college star at the University of Florida, where he won a Heisman Trophy as college football’s top player as well as two national championships.
In an unusual twist, Tebow was the clear first choice of every age demographic - young and old, except for people aged 45 to 54 who favored Manning by a wide margin.
Tebow’s popularity crossed lines as well - he was the favorite of both men and women, as well as both whites and Hispanics. (He was third among African-Americans behind Brees and Brady).
Overall, the victory clearly went to Tebow, by an eight-point margin even Mitt Romney could envy.
Tebow has far from universal support. Tebowing has been mocked by comedians and rival players and many football purists do not consider him an especially good quarterback.
But he has helped his team to a series of improbable victories this season that had even the most hardened sports fans wondering if God was also watching the game on Sundays.
His convincing win in the Reuters/Ipsos poll is little surprise to political professionals.
“He has got a stronger base than any other quarterback. Brady may be the best known but in a Republican primary, Tebow would crush him - religious conservatives, economic conservatives and football fans,” Republican strategist and Fox News contributor Frank Luntz told Reuters on the sidelines of the pre-game festivities for the Super Bowl in Indianapolis.
Reporting By Ben Berkowitz, additional reporting by Simon Evans in Indianapolis; Editing by Edward Tobin and Martin Howell