Americans are Split on Trump vs. the NFL and National Anthem Protests

In contrast to the findings in a poll conducted by the Remington Research Group and published by Breitbart News, a survey of American adults conducted by AYTM on Wednesday revealed that Americans are divided in their opinions about President Trump, the NFL, and the national anthem protests. However, most Americans do have very strong opinions about this controversy.

The Escalating Controversy – A Timeline of Events and Public Opinion

The controversy started in August when Colin Kaepernick of the San Francisco 49ers first sat on the sidelines during the national anthem and later kneeled during the anthem in protest of racial inequality in the United States. Soon other players joined his protest, and it quickly escalated into a very big media story.

During a rally for Republican Senate candidate Luther Strange in Alabama last week, President Trump said NFL players should stand during the national anthem or be fired. His comments generated strong reactions from the media, the NFL, and the American people. It appeared people were split on which should be prioritized – respect for the flag or freedom of speech. Based on AYTM’s survey of 1,500 Americans balanced between men (734) and women (766), freedom of speech appears to be winning.

In AYTM’s survey results, 53% of respondents said they do not agree with President Trump on this issue while 47% agree with him. Most people felt strongly about this questions with more than 39% of respondents strongly disagreeing with Trump and nearly 30% strongly agreeing with him. Among women, more than 54% disagree with the president versus 51% among men, which means gender matters very little in terms of how people feel about Trump’s original statement.

Trump NFL chart 1

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In response to President Trump’s statement, some NFL players, coaches, and owners linked arms and kneeled during the national anthem before Sunday’s games to show unity. AYTM asked its survey respondents if they agreed with the NFL’s protest and more than 58% said that they do agree with the NFL. Again, opinions were strong among respondents with more than 38% strongly supporting the NFL and nearly 28% strongly disagreeing with the NFL’s protest. Among women, 59% support the NFL players compared to nearly 57% of men. Again, opinions related to this controversy aren’t split based on gender.

Trump NFL Chart 2

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The story didn’t stop there. Next, President Trump took to his Twitter account to comment on the NFL’s response. He published a tweet calling for the NFL to “set a rule that you can’t kneel” during the national anthem. More than 57% of respondents to the AYTM survey disagreed with the President’s comments in his tweet with 43% strongly disagreeing. On the other hand, nearly 28% strongly agreed with the president. Nearly 59% of women disagree with Trump’s tweet compared to nearly 56% of men.

Trump NFL Chart 3

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Breaking Down the Great Divide

In our current political climate, it’s not surprising that Americans have strong opinions on the controversy between President Trump and the NFL. However, you can see that great divide in startling detail when you look at the data from AYTM’s survey. Clearly, the great divide is drawn between political preferences.

Trump’s Original Statement

First, take a look at the two charts below which show the extent to which Americans agree with President Trump’s original statement that NFL players should be fired if they don’t stand during the national anthem. The first chart shows responses by respondents who self-identified as Trump supporters overall. The second chart shows responses by respondents who say they do not support Trump overall.

In total, nearly 93% of Trump supporters who responded to the AYTM survey agree with the president’s statement that NFL players should be fired for failing to stand during the national anthem. On the other hand, more than 81% of people who do not support Trump believe NFL players should not be fired for this form of protest.

Trump NFL Chart 4

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Trump NFL Chart 5

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The NFL’s Response

Next, consider how Trump supporters feel about the NFL’s response to Trump’s original statement versus people who don’t support Trump. As shown in the first chart below, more than 83% of people who support Trump don’t agree with the NFL’s unified response while more than 83% of people who don’t support Trump do agree with the NFL’s response.

Trump NFL Chart 6

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Trump NFL Chart 7

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President Trump’s Tweet

As you might expect, the great divide doesn’t stop there. When asked if they supported Trump’s tweet calling for the NFL to create a rule that requires people to stand during the national anthem, nearly 86% of Trump supporters agreed with him while nearly 84% of people who don’t support Trump disagreed with him as shown in the charts below.

Trump NFL Chart 8

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Trump NFL Chart 9

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Mixing Politics and Football

Finally, when asked if NFL employees should be allowed to make political statements of any kind during games, respondents were still separated by the great political divide. Among Trump supporters, nearly 80% of respondents believe political statements should not be allowed. Among people who don’t support Trump, nearly 59% of respondents believe political statements should be allowed during games.

Politics Trump Sports

While you might think that people would be more loyal to sports than politics, the results of AYTM’s survey paint a different picture. Respondents were asked how often they watch football to determine their loyalty to their favorite teams and athletes. Surprisingly, loyalty doesn’t seem to affect people’s feelings about the Trump versus the NFL controversy.

AYTM segmented the respondent audience into five groups: people who never miss a football game, people who watch more than half of the games in a season, people who watch fewer than half of the games in a season, people who rarely watch football, and people who never watch football.

When asked if they supported Trump’s original statement to fire NFL players who don’t stand during the national anthem, between 49% and 58% of respondents across every segment did not agree with President Trump. Interestingly, the audience that included the most people who disagreed with Trump (nearly 58%) was the audience of people who never watch football, but the audience with the most people who agreed with Trump (49%) was the audience of people who watch more than half of the games each season. In contrast, nearly 56% of people who never watch football disagree with Trump’s statement.

When respondents were asked if they supported the NFL’s response to Trump’s original statement, across all segments, between 55% and 64% of respondents agreed with the NFL. Again, the audience that included the most people who agreed with the NFL (more than 64%) was the audience of people who never misses a game followed by the audience who watches more than half of the games in a season (more than 58%), and the audience who never misses a game (nearly 62%).

Another piece of evidence that suggests politics trump sports was discovered when people were asked if they agreed with Trump’s tweet in response to the NFL’s protest. Between 54% and 62% of respondents disagreed with President Trump across every segment. The audience with the most people who disagreed with President Trump was the audience of people who never watch football (more than 62%) followed by the audience who never misses a game (62%).

The Takeaway

AYTM’s unbiased survey of 1,500 American adults delivered different results from the poll published by Breitbart News which reported that 64% of Americans agreed with President Trump’s original statement calling for NFL players to be fired if they kneel during the national anthem. In contrast, AYTM’s survey found that only 47% of Americans agreed with the President’s original statement.

The AYTM results show that opinions don’t vary greatly between genders or in terms of football fan loyalty. Instead, AYTM’s survey results show the country is divided on politics, and that great divide is creeping into every part of Americans’ lives – even football.

You can see the full survey results in the widget below.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Susan Gunelius
Susan Gunelius, MBA is a 25-year marketing and branding expert and President and CEO of KeySplash Creative, Inc., a marketing communications company. She is the author of 10 books about marketing, branding and social media, and her marketing-related articles appear on top media websites such as Entrepreneur.com and Forbes.com. She is also the Founder and Editor in Chief of WomenOnBusiness.com, an award-winning blog for business women.

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