58% of NFL Fans disapprove of President Trump’s handling of the protest
President Trump has been met with criticism from many Americans this last week for his response to Hurricane Maria. But he also gets negative ratings for his response to the latest football controversy – the protests by some National Football League players during the playing of the national anthem before NFL games. In the latest Economist/YouGov Poll, only 30% of the public approves of the President’s handling of the NFL protests. A majority disapproves.
On this question, NFL fans (44% of the public) are slightly more negative than the public at large about the President on this issue. Nearly half of them strongly disapprove.
The President has sent out multiple tweets about the NFL protests, and some of them have expressed strong negative feelings. The public – as well as the self-described NFL fan base – is divided in their opinion about the protests, which first manifested as a few players “taking a knee,” followed by a mix of kneeling, standing with locked arms and some raised fists. As many say the NFL should require players to stand during the anthem as say the opposite. However, though the President would fire protesting players, Americans, fans and non-fans alike, would not.
This issue mixes football, race and politics. Those who call themselves fans of the NFL are more supportive of the players than those who say they aren’t fans. For example, a majority of fans say players have a right to protest racial discrimination by kneeling during the national anthem; a plurality of non-fans do not. But fans and non-fans alike do not want the protesting players fired, would not make it illegal to kneel during the national anthem, and disapprove of how the President has handled this.
Most Americans see this protest as a matter of race, not an issue of patriotism, and whites and blacks respond to the protests (and to football in general) differently. Blacks are more likely than whites to say they are fans of the NFL. 52% of whites oppose the players’ right to protest by kneeling during the national anthem, 70% of blacks (83% of black fans) support that right. But neither whites nor blacks think protesting players should be fired or that kneeling during the anthem should be illegal; both groups disapprove of the President’s handling of the situation.
The racial gap in opinion comes at a time when Americans, white and black, describe race relations as “bad.” Eight in ten see racism as a problem, and 43% view it is a “big problem.” But when asked if relations have gotten better or worse since the 1960’s, the time of the civil rights movement, the races diverge. Whites think things have improved since the 1960’s, while blacks aren’t so sure.
With the President weighing in so strongly, the NFL protests have become political. About as many Republicans as Democrats say they are NFL fans, but those Republicans are among the few groups of fans with negative opinions of the League. 62% of all Republicans, fans and non-fans alike, approve of Donald Trump’s handling of the NFL protests, and they take similar positions as their party’s President about the protests. Majorities of Republican NFL fans oppose the players’ right to protests during the playing of the national anthem, and say they should be required to stand. 55% of Republican NFL fans agree with the President and think players who do not stand should be fired.