Well, good. Football’s a vastly inferior sport to baseball and kills the people who play it, especially at the highest levels. And I’m not just saying that because I’m a Jets fan.
Although I’m partly saying it because I’m a Jets fan.
If these numbers seem vaguely familiar to you, there’s a reason.
Today, 46 percent of voters have a positive view of the N.F.L. while 41 percent view it negatively. Four years ago (the last time the question was asked), 64 percent had a positive view of the league and 19 percent were critical…
The downward shift on favorability comes mainly from Republicans (-37 points), whites (-23 points), men (-23 points), and independents (-14 points).
Thirty-seven farking points among Republicans since 2013. Good lord. The NFL’s popularity has declined among Democrats and nonwhites too, but only a tiny bit — by six points and three points, respectively.
Why does all of that feel familiar? Because it tracks the same trends detected by Gallup in a similar poll published two weeks ago, which I wrote about here. The shifts recorded by Gallup weren’t as dramatic as the ones recorded by Fox since 2013 but they all point south among the same core GOP demographics, with support for the NFL declining among Republicans by 15 points, among whites by 14, among men by 13, and among independents by 12. Democrats and nonwhites, by contrast, saw minimal decline. All the trends are the same as they are in Fox’s data.
But why are the actual numbers so different from Fox’s? It could be due to the difference in the questions they asked. Fox asked straightforwardedly whether people have a favorable or unfavorable view of the NFL. Gallup asked whether people consider themselves “pro football fans.” Those who watch the sport closely enough to consider themselves a “fan” logically should be less likely to lose affection for it than an average member of the population. Even so, whether you’re talking about fans or Americans generally, there’s really no doubt from Gallup’s and Fox’s data that the league has taken a hit in popularity among those who lean right. That’s not entirely due to a “Trump effect” in POTUS positioning himself as the chief critic of anthem protests. But a lot of it is a Trump effect.
But wait. There’s another trend Fox is picking up that’s been detected in other polls too:
Forty-four percent think kneeling during the national anthem is appropriate, up from 41 percent who felt that way last month and 32 percent who said so last September. Sill, a majority thinks it is inappropriate (52 percent).
Anthem protests are still unpopular on balance in this survey but they’re more popular now than they were a year ago, which makes this at least the third survey in the past month to show public opposition to the protests softening. A year ago Marist found that 52 percent thought players should be required to stand for the anthem versus 43 percent who believed they shouldn’t. Now the scales have tipped the other way, with 51 percent opposed to making the players stand and 47 percent in favor. A Suffolk poll taken last month found that 51 percent of the public find the protests themselves appropriate versus just 42 percent who don’t. There must be a robust “Trump effect” to those numbers too, I suspect. Some Democrats maybe weren’t thrilled with the protests originally, but once POTUS weighed in and turned it into a partisan thing, they reacted accordingly. That’s a cold comfort for the NFL since an uptick in support for the protests probably won’t mean many more viewers for games relative to the number in Trump’s base who perceive the league as unpatriotic and are disgusted enough to turn it off. But that’s where we are.