It’s been about three weeks since President Donald Trump ignited an ongoing battle with the NFL over protests during the national anthem.
Now, evidence is emerging that his onslaught of tweets and soundbites may be working to change the way people – if they voted for him in the first place – see the NFL, the nation’s most popular sports league.
The New York Times’ Kevin Quealy showed the trends earlier this week using results of daily online surveys from Morning Consult, a polling, media and technology company.
A month ago, people who voted for Hillary Clinton or Trump weren’t far apart – about 60 percent had a favorable impression of the league and 20 percent negative – on what they thought about the NFL.
Then Trump, at a Sept. 22 rally in Alabama for his choice in a U.S. Senate primary, called for NFL owners to fire players who don’t stand during the national anthem. Since then, the gap between Trump and Clinton voters has spiked, according to the poll.
The Trump voters now have a far less favorable opinion – almost the reverse of where they stood before the president’s speech in Alabama – of the NFL than the Clinton voters. The gap is so wide now that the NFL now ranks seventh on the list of America’s most divisive brands.
What might be more interesting, though probably no more surprising, is that Clinton voters also said they heard or read less negative news about the NFL than the Trump voters. Both groups are reading or seeing more negative stories, but Trump voters are taking in more and even that gap has widened of late.
That likely reflects the way many people get their news – from a source they perceive as promoting their own values, opinions and politics.
Trump’s own hotel chain leads the list of most polarizing brands, followed by five media companies – CNN, NBC News, New York Times, MSNBC and Fox News. The top 15 only includes two other non-media brands, fast-food chain Chick-fil-A and outdoors store Cabela’s.
NFL television ratings and stadium attendance also are falling in 2017 compared to recent seasons, but the reasons for those declines likely go beyond Trump, according to The Sporting News and The Atlantic.
How long will the Trump voters hang onto their newly found negative views of the NFL? Perhaps all will be forgiven if their former favorite teams make the NFL playoffs.
But they might just come around anyway. Quealy notes that negative views of United Airlines that spiked after videos of a passenger being dragged off an airplane went viral already have returned to near normal levels.
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