The raw numbers look nice for those who favor keeping the name, but pay attention to the trendline. Way back in 1992, just eight percent supported changing it; last year, as the lefty messaging machine got rolling, it bumped up to 14 percent. Through eight months of this year, it’s up another nine points. Where will it be five years from now?
Glass half-full or half-empty?
Don’t read too much into the numbers among liberals. They’ll become strongly negative soon enough, as opposition to “Redskins” slowly joins the canon of What Good Progressives Believe. The number among the under-45 set is interesting, although I’d love to see a more refined split between the youngest adults and the middle-aged. It only stands to reason, I think, that the older you are, and the fonder your memories of the team’s glory years, the more attached to “Redskins” you’ll be. A younger cohort (which leans left to begin with) doesn’t face that obstacle. It may be that, a la opposition to gay marriage, support for the team’s name will simply age out over time as older fans are replaced by younger ones.
Another interesting number from the poll: Although 71 percent support keeping the name, just 54 percent think it’s unlikely to be changed. Makes me wonder if there’s a self-fulfilling prophesy effect here, in which some critical mass who oppose the PC option have grown so fatalistic about crusades like this that they’re unlikely to resist as pressure builds from the other side. If you’re telling yourself that Dan Snyder will eventually cave to some kind of boycott, how likely are you to join a counter-boycott? That 54 percent may be a more significant figure than the 71 percent who claim to support the name, however half-heartedly.
One question that never gets asked in “Redskins” polls, possibly because there’s no foolproof way to pose it, is whether fans would support the team changing its name to “Redskins” now if it had been named something else for the past 75 years. Whether you could get an “accurate” number from a difficult counterfactual like that is unclear; the closest you might come is to ask people if they’d support some other team changing its name to “Redskins.” That may be the only way to discern how much of the support for the name is based on tradition and resistance to political correctness and how much is based on a heartfelt belief that the word really isn’t so derogatory that is should be off-limits to teams.
Exit question: If you had to guess, would you guess that NFL players are more likely or less likely than the public at large to support keeping the name? Answer here.