JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – If a new University of North Florida poll is any sign, the recent backlash over NFL players staging pre-game protests during the national anthem might be exaggerated.
Most of the 509 registered Jacksonville voters polled weren't fazed, saying the protests had no influence on whether they would watch or go to a game, according to the survey results.
"For all the attention that the pregame protests have gotten, on average most football fans are unaffected," said Dr. Michael Binder, who heads UNF's polling lab.
Calls for boycotts followed the Sept. 24 protest that saw players around the league kneel as "The Spar-Spangled Banner" played, which came in response to comments made by President Donald Trump urging owners to fire players who kneel during the anthem.
Notably, two-thirds of those polled approve of the job Shad Khan is doing as the Jaguars owner, while head coach Doug Marrone carries a 58 percent approval rating. Hardly surprising, given the Jaguars (3-2) currently lead the AFC South and are fresh off a decisive road win over the Steelers.
"Early season success and a division lead has the city behind the Jags' owner and head coach," said Binder. "And if this is the year they can finally turn things around, you can expect those numbers to rise."
Among other findings, the survey found reactions to the protest were split along party lines. Almost two-thirds of Democrats said the issue had no bearing on how they feel. In addition, 18 percent said they were more likely to watch, and go to, NFL games.
Most Republicans, on the other hand, appeared to have changed their minds about the NFL -- almost 63 percent said they were less likely to watch a NFL game and 57 percent said they were less likely to attend one.
"The really interesting aspect is how politically polarized the issue has become -- Democrats, on balance, are more likely to watch or go to games, but Republicans are less likely to watch and go to games," Binder said.
The survey, conducted by phone Oct. 2 through Oct. 4, has a 4.3 percent margin of error. Forty-one percent of those polled are registered Democrats, 38 percent Republican and the remainder are not affiliated with either party.