Americans Are Split Over The NFL's Decision On Anthem Protests

Opinions are divide along racial lines but even more sharply along political ones.
San Francisco 49ers outside linebacker Eli Harold (58), quarterback Colin Kaepernick (7) and free safety Eric Reid (35) kneel
San Francisco 49ers outside linebacker Eli Harold (58), quarterback Colin Kaepernick (7) and free safety Eric Reid (35) kneel in protest during the national anthem before an NFL game at Levi's Stadium on Oct. 16, 2016.

Americans are close to evenly divided over the NFL’s new policy that allows the league to fine teams whose players sit or kneel during the playing of the national anthem.

In a new HuffPost/YouGov survey, 41 percent of Americans say that teams should be fined if their players kneel in protest, while 44 percent say they should not. The rest aren’t sure.

Views are divided along racial lines: half of white Americans but just 13 percent of black Americans approve of the fines. But the divide along political lines is even starker, with 81 percent of Donald Trump voters and just 12 percent of those who backed Hillary Clinton supporting fines levied against the teams.

The NFL protests ― and Trump’s criticism of them ― set off a storm of controversy last fall, with Americans disapproving both of the protests and of the president’s response. 

Americans say, 49 percent to 35 percent, that it’s inappropriate for NFL players to kneel, largely unchanged from the 48/36 split on the issue in September of last year. Trump voters remain almost universal in condemnation of the protests, with 92 percent considering them inappropriate. Just 17 percent of Clinton voters and 44 percent of nonvoters say the same.  

Of those Americans who find the protests inappropriate, 8 percent currently say players should find a different way to protest during games, while 76 percent say players should protest only outside of their professional life and 13 percent that players should not protest at all. The new NFL policy allows players to remain in the locker room during the anthem but mandates that they stand if they’re on the field while it plays.

Although the NFL protests haven’t won most Americans’ hearts, they have largely gotten their message across, the survey finds. Last September, fewer than half of the public knew that the protests were aimed at police violence, while 40 percent thought they were mostly intended to target the president (respondents were allowed to select multiple options).

In the most recent poll, a 55 percent majority identify police violence as the main target of the protests, while fewer than 20 percent see it as a protest against Trump, the American flag or anything else. 

The HuffPost/YouGov poll consisted of 1,000 completed interviews conducted May 23-28 among U.S. adults using a sample selected from YouGov’s opt-in online panel to match the demographics and other characteristics of the adult U.S. population.

HuffPost has teamed up with YouGov to conduct daily opinion polls. You can learn more about this project and take part in YouGov’s nationally representative opinion polling. More details on the polls’ methodology are available here.

Most surveys report a margin of error that represents some, but not all, potential survey errors. YouGov’s reports include a model-based margin of error, which rests on a specific set of statistical assumptions about the selected sample rather than the standard methodology for random probability sampling. If these assumptions are wrong, the model-based margin of error may also be inaccurate. Click here for a more detailed explanation of the model-based margin of error.