Sports | October 10, 2017 10:43 am

How Americans Feel About NFL Protests Hinges on How You Ask Them

FiveThirtyEight does deep-dive on the way people respond to polls on the issue.

Week 1 Fantasy Football Autopsy
Malcolm Jenkins #27 of the Philadelphia Eagles raises his fist as he stands during the national anthem before an NFL football game against the Washington Redskins at FedExField on September 10, 2017 in Landover, Maryland. (Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)

With the NFL protests reaching a fever pitch, the news media has been interested in taking the pulse of Americans’ views on them in a number of polls from CBS/YouGov, CNN, and others. How do they feel about the protests? Are they for or against them?

Poll results have been all over the place, and the reason for that, according to FiveThirtyEight, is how pollsters are asking their questions, and how the poll-takers themselves are parsing them. For example, some people believe the NFL protests are unpatriotic, as the Trump administration has seemingly spun them, while others believe that the protests are simply another example of free speech in action. Another group believes that the protests are not protesting the flag or the U.S., but rather social and racial injustice. It’s these three schools of thought that are muddying poll results.

The conclusions that FiveThirtyEight‘s Kathryn Casteel came to regarding all the disparate types of polls and three schools of thought for polling questions?

(1) Many Americans are not fans of the NFL protests, as long as they’re not told in the poll why the players are protesting.

(2) Generally speaking, Americans dislike protests that involve the flag or the national anthem. That said, it’s unclear how that general feeling sways public opinion on the topic of the NFL protests.

(3) Americans think racism is a problem, but are less likely to support the idea if the Black Lives Matters movement is involved in the line of questioning.

(4) In general, Americans support free speech, but as noted in No. 2, things get dicey when it involves kneeling during the national anthem.

To throw a wrench into all of that, FiveThirtyEight also notes that the answers are also highly contingent on race and political party.