But the majority of Americans say race relations are bad

Last fall, as some National Football League players decided to “take a knee” during the National Anthem, the politics of football changed. Republicans in the Economist/YouGov Poll turned against the League, as their unfavorable ratings outstripped favorable ones by nearly three to one. The League’s decision last week to fine teams in the future if players did not stand for the anthem (while allowing those who objected to remain in the locker room) mildly improved its image with the GOP. But now Democrats are nowhere near as happy with the NFL as they were last fall.

Less than half of Democrats now have a favorable view of the League, down from more than two-thirds last fall; a majority of Republicans continue to be unfavorable. NFL fans retain a positive opinion. Among those who at least somewhat interested in the NFL, both Republicans and Democrats are favorable towards it. But those Republicans not interested in professional football are overwhelmingly negative. (Democrats who aren’t interested in the NFL are nearly as likely to say they have no opinion about the NFL as to say they dislike it.)

The League’s solution to last season’s “taking a knee” protest – fining teams if players don’t standing during or stay off the field during the anthem – displeases as many in the public as it pleases. Republicans approve; but Democrats and African-Americans do not. 

Those who are at least somewhat interested in the NFL approve of the League’s decision. Democrats in this category, however, still disapprove, 58% to 35%.

There is much more support for giving players the right to remain in the locker room during the National Anthem than there is for their right to kneel in protest while it is being played. Republicans and Democrats support the right to remain off the field; Democrats alone support the right to kneel. African-Americans support the right to kneel by more than three to one.

Those interested in the League are not much different from the public overall on these questions: they divide closely on the right to kneel, but by two to one support the right to remain in the locker room.

Most Americans acknowledge that racism remains a problem in the US today. Large majorities of both blacks (72%) and whites (65%) say race relations are generally bad. But there continue to be racial differences in assessment of the extent of racism: 58% of blacks, compared with 38% of whites believe racism is a “big problem.”

For both whites and blacks, however, the NFL protests are a matter of race, and not about patriotism.

Read more results here

Photo: Getty

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