Trump Voters Driven Away from NFL Viewing by Player Protests

Fort Washington, Pennsylvania, January 31, 2017 – With the year’s most watched broadcast, the NFL Super Bowl, less than a week away, results from research conducted by Leger sheds some light into the reasons for the decline in TV ratings for NFL games this season.

Similar to the October 2016 Leger research, the number one reason for declining NFL TV ratings this season is directly linked to the players protesting/kneeling during the national anthem. Additionally, among those who specifically cited the protests as a reason for watching fewer NFL games this year, nearly three in four (75%) voted for Trump in the 2016 U.S. Presidential election.

Newly released data from Leger research (conducted in January 2017) shows a slight improvement in NFL viewing trends, with 12% of adults having watched less football (compared to 16% in the Fall) as the games headed into the postseason.

However, the declines are still driven by Trump voters, 17% of whom claim to have decreased their viewership of live NFL games this season, compared to 11% among Clinton voters.

The Leger research supports the notion that viewers returned to watching games after the U.S. Presidential election. Consider that once the election was over, an estimated 2.3 million viewers returned to watch NFL games. However, this also indicates not all of them came back.

Despite the improvement in January, the two Leger polls show that overall viewership of NFL games did not increase this season.

Discussions around the decline in ratings for NFL games this season focused on reasons such as: the quality of the games; the questionable officiating; an audience focus on highlights/NFL Red Zone driven by Fantasy Football interest; U.S. Presidential debates and related programs; and the controversy around player protests to show support for those oppressed in the United States.

The results of the latest poll by Leger suggests after the election, some adults also started watching NFL games again, and may have either recovered from the initial shock and outrage of the protests, became more educated of the reasons behind the protesting, or were more accepting to kneeling instead of sitting down during the playing of the national anthem.

In contrast to this improvement, the Leger January 2017 poll also confirmed findings from its previous poll in October 2016 that the protests, as a reason for not watching, were cited by those who were older, male, and white than their counterparts (younger, female, non-white).

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