‘The anthem protests are having an effect on the viewership’: NFL fan interest wanes as a majority of republicans and white Americans object to player demonstrations

Friday, August 31, 2018
By Paul Martin

According to a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, fewer people say they follow the league closely today than four years ago
Of the 900 registered voters polled, 52 percent said they continue to follow the league closely, which is down from 58 percent in 2014
Respondents were not asked directly as to why their viewing habits changed
Of those polled, only 10 percent of republicans and just 38 percent of white respondents said they felt the protests are appropriate
Meanwhile, 72 percent of democrats and 56 percent of those polled between 18 and 34 – a critical demographic – believe the demonstrations are appropriate
Despite the declining interest, NFL games still accounted for 37 of the top 50 highest-rated broadcasts of 2017 as the league recorded record earnings

By ALEX RASKIN
DAILYMAIL.COM
31 August 2018

After two consecutive seasons of falling television ratings, the NFL continues to face waning fan interest as a majority of Americans – particularly whites and republicans – object to players kneeling in protest of racism during the national anthem.

According to a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, fewer people say they follow the league closely today than four years ago, and the biggest drop-off appears to be those fans who disagree with players demonstrating to raise awareness about social issues, criminal justice reform, and police brutality against minorities.

Of the 900 registered voters polled, 52 percent said they continue to follow the league closely, which is down from 58 percent in 2014. However, the margin of error was plus or minus 3.27 percentage points, so that figure in itself may not be too revealing.

Other findings help to paint a more specific picture.

Men older than 50 continue to follow the game closer than any other demographic despite their own generally negative views about the protests, according to The Wall Street Journal. Those who have stopped watching the game altogether tend to be those with the most unfavorable few of the protests.

Namely, republicans are the most dissatisfied with the game. In 2014, just 16 percent of republicans said they did not follow football closely, but that number has exploded up to 39% in the latest data.

Only 10 percent of republicans and just 38 percent of white respondents said they felt the protests are appropriate.

But not everyone opposes the protests: 72 percent of democrats and 56 percent of those polled between the ages of 18 and 34 – a critical demographic – believe the demonstrations are appropriate.

Regardless, the poll is ‘still reflecting a lower audience base than we measured in 2014,’ republican pollster Micah Roberts told the Journal. ‘It’s not going in the right direction.’

Respondents were not asked directly if their viewing habits changed because of the protests, but Roberts – who conducted to the survey with democratic pollster Fred Yang – believes that is a logical conclusion based on the subgroups that saw the biggest changes from 2014.

‘The anthem protests are having an effect on the viewership,’ she told the Journal.

The NFL is still working towards a resolution on a national anthem policy. In May the owners announced a new set of rules allowing players to remain in the locker room during the anthem while requiring any team personnel on the field to stand. Teams with personnel in violation of the new policy would have been subject to fines, and those teams would have the right to fine their own players as they saw fit.

However, since then the league and the NFL Players Association have been meeting in East Rutherford, New Jersey to work towards a compromise on the issue. According to an ESPN report, both sides are ‘encouraged’ by the dialogue, but a resolution is not expected to be made by next week’s opener.

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