A majority of Americans think professional athletes should be required to stand for the national anthem, and nearly two-thirds of residents consider the anthem to be a symbol of Americans’ rights and freedoms. However, Americans divide about whether or not it is disrespectful for a player or team to refuse to stand for the national anthem in protest of an issue. On many of these questions, opinions differ based on race, military service, and age.
52% of Americans say professional sports leagues should require their athletes to stand for the national anthem. 43% think such a display should not be mandated. While a majority of white residents, 56%, say the players should be obligated to rise for the anthem, a majority of Latino adults, 55%, and nearly half of African American residents, 48%, report they should not be made to do so. A notable 11% of African Americans are unsure. United States military veterans, 57%, are slightly more likely than those who have not served in the military, 51%, to report that professional athletes should be required to stand for the national anthem. A majority of those under the age of 45 years old, 57%, do not think athletes should be required to stand for the national anthem. More than six in ten older residents, 63%, have the opposite point of view.
What do Americans perceive to be the significance of the national anthem? 65% of residents say it is more a symbol of Americans’ rights and freedoms while 27% report it is more a symbol of the sacrifice of the U.S. military. Veterans, 36%, are more likely than those who have not served in the military, 26%, to define the anthem as a symbol of military sacrifice. Still, 54% of veterans, compared with 67% of those who are not, consider the song to be more of a symbol of Americans’ rights and freedoms.
This HBO Real Sports/Marist Poll has been conducted in conjunction with the Marist College Center for Sports Communication.
“These results refute the myth that Americans prefer their athletes to simply play sports and keep quiet,” says Keith Strudler, Director of the Marist College Center for Sports Communication. “They also show a remarkable divide between how minorities and whites view the reverence of political displays such as Colin Kaepernick’s recent protest.”
A divide exists about whether or not it is disrespectful if a team or athlete does not stand for the song. 50% say it is disrespectful to the freedoms the anthem represents while 46% assert it demonstrates the freedoms the anthem expresses. Again, racial differences exist. 57% of whites think it is disrespectful while about two-thirds of African Americans, 68%, and Latinos, 64%, believe it is a demonstration of their civil liberties. Among veterans, more than six in ten, 61%, say it is offensive not to stand for the anthem. Among those who are not veterans, there is a divide. 48% consider the protest disrespectful while 47% say it is an expression of the freedoms the song represents. Among those who are under 45 years of age, 57% say it is an expression of liberty while a similar proportion of those who are older, 58%, think such a protest is disrespectful to the freedoms the anthem represents.
Should the national anthem be played while professional players are on the court or field, if at all? A majority of U.S. residents, 54%, say the song should be played with the athletes present. 34% report it should be performed before the players appear on the court or field. Eight percent of U.S. residents assert the anthem should not be played at sporting events at all. Looking at race, majorities of whites, 57%, and Latinos, 53%, say the current process of having the players present while the anthem is performed should continue. Half of African Americans, 50%, think the song should be heard but before the athletes are present. 35% believe it should be played with the players on the court or field. More than one in ten African Americans, 11%, do not think the anthem should be performed at all. Veterans, 67%, are more likely than those who have not served, 52%, to opine that the anthem should be performed with the athletes on the field or court.
A majority of Americans, 54%, think athletes should be involved in politics such as endorsing candidates or speaking out on causes. 38% say they should not. While 50% of veterans think professional athletes should abstain from this type of participation, 55% of those who are not veterans think athletes should be politically active. Younger residents are proponents of political participation by professional athletes. 61% of those under 45 years old, compared with 47% of those 45 and older, think it is acceptable for professional athletes to be politically active.
A majority of American baseball fans think Major League Baseball teams should be required to add protective netting to ballparks in areas close to the field in order to prevent fans from being hit by foul balls and bats. When it comes to personal preference about whether they would choose to sit behind such netting, a majority of baseball fans report they would rather sit in an unprotected section. However, fans are more likely to say they want to sit behind protective netting when sitting in seats close to the field or attending a game with children.
54% of baseball fans, including 51% of those who have attended a Major League Baseball game, support adding protective netting to areas close to the field. Gender, age, and racial differences exist. While 60% of women support such protective measures, men divide 48% in favor to 49% opposed. Also of note, fans 45 years of age or older, 60%, are more likely than younger fans, 46%, to say netting should be installed.
On the question of fan preference, 54% of baseball fans say they would prefer to sit in a section of the ballpark without protective netting. Again, demographic differences exist. While 55% of women report they would rather sit in seats with the netting, only 29% of men say the same. Fans 60 and older, 54%, are more likely than younger fans to choose a seat shielded from foul balls and bats. Those 18 to 29 years old, 32%, and fans 30 to 44 years of age, 31%, are the least likely to have this preference.
When proximity to the field enters the picture, opinions change. If sitting above the dugout or along the baselines, half of baseball fans, 50%, say they would prefer to sit in an area protected by netting compared with 47% who would not. However, a gender gap remains. 61% of women, compared with 41% of men, would opt to sit in the protected seats.
Children are a game changer. 77% of baseball fans would choose to sit in an area with netting if they were with children. Regardless of demographic group, at least 69% report they would like to be protected from foul balls and bats if bringing a child to the ballpark.
This HBO Real Sports/Marist Poll has been conducted in conjunction with the Marist College Center for Sports Communication.
“Public awareness exists about fan safety at Major League baseball games, especially when it comes to children. This should allow the League to cautiously put up additional safety netting,” says Keith Strudler, Director of the Marist College Center for Sports Communication, “The challenge for baseball is to institute safety measures without upsetting fans who would rather have an unobstructed view.”
Does watching a game through protective netting make the game less enjoyable? 66% report it does not change the way they feel about watching the game. One in four, 25%, believes it makes it less enjoyable, and 8% report it makes it more enjoyable. Men, 30%, are more likely than women, 20%, to think protective netting interferes with their enjoyment of the game.
Half of Americans, 50%, say they follow baseball, at least, a little. 81% of fans have been to a major league stadium. 19% have not.
Baseball, however, is not the game of choice for sports fans. A majority of sports fans, 55%, say football is their favorite sport to watch or follow. Baseball is a distant second with 17% followed by basketball with 14%. Seven percent choose soccer, and 6% select hockey.
58% of Americans are sports fans, little changed from 57% in December.
Three in ten sports fans, 30%, think the “Deflategate” controversy involving Tom Brady and the New England Patriots was the most profound sports story of 2015. The resignation of FIFA president Sepp Blatter after 14 FIFA executives were arrested for their involvement in a corruption scandal, 27%, and the protest by the University of Missouri’s football team to fight campus racism, resulting in the resignation of the University’s president, 27%, follow. The growing concern over Daily Fantasy Sports wagering on websites such as Draft Kings or Fan Duels receives 9%. But, differences of opinion exist. Latinos point to FIFA corruption as most significant.
It was a big year for the U.S. women’s soccer team, and American sports fans took notice. About one in three, 33%, considers the team’s World Cup victory over Japan to be the single best sports accomplishment of the year. American Pharaoh’s Triple Crown run came in second with 21% followed by the Kansas City Royals first World Series win since 1985 with 17%. The New England Patriots’ fourth Super Bowl win since 2002 receives 14%. 13% point to the victory of the Golden State Warriors over the Cleveland Cavaliers for the NBA title as the biggest sports accomplishment of 2015.
Which player had the biggest impact on his or her sport in 2015? Steph Curry of the NBA’s Golden State Warriors, 27%, and New England Patriots’ quarterback Tom Brady, 27%, top the list. Serena Williams, 19%, slides into the number three spot.
This Marist Poll has been conducted in conjunction with the Marist College Center for Sports Communication.
“These results affirm the significance of Tom Brady in the sports landscape,” says Keith Strudler, Director of the Marist College Center for Sports Communication, “Brady is considered one of the two top athletes of the year but is also viewed as a central figure in one of the biggest sports stories of the year.”
- 30% of American sports fans say “Deflategate” had the biggest impact on sports this year while 27% have this view of the resignation of FIFA president Sepp Blatter, and an additional 27% have this opinion of the resignation of the University of Missouri’s president as a result of the protests by the school’s football team over campus racism. Only 9% of sports fans mention growing concern over Daily Fantasy sports wagering on websites such as Draft Kings or Fan Duel.
- Demographic differences exist. “Deflategate” is thought to be the most influential sports story of the year by women who are sports fans, 33%, white sports fans, 32%, fans in the South, 31%, and those 45 or older, 30%. Of note, 28% of fans 45 or older mention the protests at the University of Missouri.
- The resignation of FIFA president Sepp Blatter is deemed the most resounding sports story by Latino sports fans, 46%, and fans in the West, 33%, and men, 32%.
- 33% of sports fans in the Northeast think “Deflategate” is the story with the biggest impact on sports this year while 31% say the same about the resignation of Sepp Blatter. Among Midwest fans, 31% cite the campus protests at the University of Missouri while 29% believe the “Deflategate” controversy was the most significant. 37% of African American sports fans note the importance of the campus protests at the University of Missouri while 34% think “Deflategate” was the most influential sports story in 2015. Among those under 45 years old, 31% choose the FIFA scandal while 30% select “Deflategate.”
- 33% of sports fans say the World Cup victory by the U.S. women’s soccer team over Japan is the biggest sports accomplishment of the year. 21% believe that honor goes to American Pharaoh’s Triple Crown win while 17% say the Kansas City Royals’ first World Series victory since 1985 deserves top honors. 14% say the New England Patriots’ fourth Super Bowl win since 2002 is the biggest sports accomplishment of the year. 13% have this opinion of the Golden State Warriors defeat of the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA finals.
- While the U.S. women’s soccer team’s World Cup win is considered the biggest sports accomplishment by sports fans in other regions, among fans in the Midwest, the World Cup win, 31%, and the Royals’ World Series victory, 28%, battle it out for this year’s top honor.
- Among African American sports fans, 32% choose the U.S. women’s soccer team’s win while the same proportion, 32%, selects the Golden State Warriors’ victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers as the year’s biggest sports accomplishment. More than three in ten white sports fans, 31%, consider the World Cup victory to take top honors while 27% say this year’s Triple Crown win by American Pharaoh deserves the noteworthy distinction. 42% of Latino sports fans mention the U.S. women’s soccer team’s World Cup victory.
- 27% of sports fans nationally say the Golden State Warriors’ Steph Curry had the biggest impact on the NBA this year. Another 27% think NFL quarterback Tom Brady had the largest effect on his sport while 19% say tennis great Serena Williams had a major impact on tennis. 12% of American sports fans report professional golfer Jordan Spieth had the biggest impact on his sport in 2015, and 9% think professional soccer player Carli Lloyd had the greatest effect on the soccer world.
- Demographically, Steph Curry is believed to have had the biggest impact on the NBA by African American fans, 40%, and those under 45 years old, 39%, including 43% of those 18 to 29 years old. Men, 33%, Latinos, 31%, and sports fans who reside in the West, 31%, also have this view.
- Tom Brady is thought to have had the largest effect on the NFL by Northeast fans, 35%, white sports fans, 30%, and women who follow sports, 30%.
- 57% of Americans, similar to 60% last year, are sports fans.
A majority of Americans, 56%, opposes hunting animals for sport, and most Americans, 86%, consider big game hunting to be especially distasteful.
But, should big game hunting be legally prohibited? More than six in ten residents, 62%, say the practice is wrong and should be legally banned, including 34% of hunters. Another 24% of Americans and 31% of hunters say they disapprove of the practice but do not think it should be deemed illegal. 11% of adults nationally think the practice is acceptable. Not surprisingly, those who are hunters or have an interest in hunting, 28%, are more likely than Americans, overall, to say there is nothing wrong with big game hunting.
Americans are more opposed to big game hunting when compared with hunting animals for sport. A majority of Americans believes hunting, in general, is wrong. This includes 26% who think it should be illegal and 33% who disapprove but do not think it should be banned. 37% of U.S. residents say there is nothing wrong with hunting animals, more than three times the proportion of Americans who believe big game hunting is acceptable.
Most Americans, 81%, have heard something about the controversy surrounding Minnesota dentist Walter Palmer’s big game hunt, including 56% who say they know at least a good amount about it. Dr. Palmer drew international attention after he killed an African lion who was collared and part of a study. Dr. Palmer maintains he was unaware that Cecil was a local favorite and relied on his guides to ensure a fair hunt. Do Americans think Palmer acted illegally? About one in three residents, 32%, says he did something illegal while an additional 41% believe his actions were unethical but not illegal. A notable 22% say the dentist did nothing wrong. Hunters, 42%, are nearly twice as likely as residents, overall, to report that Dr. Palmer’s actions were acceptable.
Views on big game hunting are not absolute. Nearly four in ten opponents of the sport, 39%, say, if given the information that money paid for big game hunting would be allocated toward conservation efforts and to save animals that would otherwise have died, their view would change either a great deal, 10%, or somewhat, 29%.
How popular is hunting in the United States? More than one in ten Americans, 11%, reports they have hunted within the last couple of years. And, regardless of whether or not they have hunted, one in five Americans, 20%, have interest in the sport.
This HBO Real Sports/Marist Poll has been conducted in conjunction with the Marist College Center for Sports Communication.
“We are far more universally aligned against hunting big game animals than hunting for sport, both generally and in the specific case of Cecil the lion,” says Keith Strudler, Director of the Marist College Center for Sports Communication. “We can see that national opinions on this sport are driven more by the type of animal than perhaps general notions of killing animals or even guns.”
- 56% of Americans either strongly oppose, 33%, or somewhat oppose, 23%, hunting animals for sport. 41% of adults either strongly favor it, 20%, or somewhat favor the practice, 21%.
- 86% of Americans disapprove of big game hunting. This includes 62% who think big game hunting is wrong and should be prohibited by law and 24% who personally disapprove of the practice but do not think it should be legally banned. 11% say this type of hunting is acceptable.
- Even three in four gun owners, 75%, and about two-thirds of hunters, 65%, are opposed to big game hunting, although, gun owners, 20%, and hunters, 28%, are more likely than Americans, overall, to think big game hunting is acceptable.
- Women, 68%, are more likely than men, 55%, to say big game hunting should be legally prohibited.
- Nearly six in ten adults nationally, 59%, think hunting animals for sport, in general, is unacceptable. Included here are 26% who say hunting should be prohibited by law and 33% who say they personally disapprove but do not think hunting should be illegal. 37% say it is an acceptable practice.
- Men, 45%, are more likely than women, 30%, to believe there is nothing wrong with hunting.
- When it comes to the controversy surrounding Dr. Walter Palmer, most Americans, 81%, have heard about it. A majority of Americans, 56%, have heard either a great deal, 34%, or a good amount, 22%, about Palmer’s hunt in Africa which resulted in the killing of Cecil the lion.
- 73% of Americans believe Palmer did something wrong during his big game hunt. Only 32% say he did something illegal. 41% report Palmer’s actions were unethical but not illegal. A notable 22% think Dr. Palmer did nothing wrong.
- Hunters, 42%, and gun owners, 32%, are more likely than Americans, overall, to report Dr. Palmer did nothing wrong.
- If given the knowledge that money paid for big game hunts funded conservation efforts, 61% of Americans who oppose big game hunting say their opinion would not change. 10% say this information would alter their opinion a great deal, and 29% report it would change their view somewhat.
- 20% of Americans say they are interested in hunting as a sport, and 11% say they have been hunting in the past couple of years.
- Gun owners, 29%, are nearly three times as likely as Americans, overall, to say they have hunted recently.
- There is also a gender difference. 18% of men have participated in a hunt over the last couple of years compared with only 5% of women.
4/21: More Than One-Third Believes Decline in African American Baseball Players is a Concern… Race Factors into Perceptions of Baseball
More than one in three Americans considers the decline in African American players in Major League Baseball to be a problem. This includes about one in eight who thinks the decline to be a major issue.
Looking at Americans’ perceptions of baseball, only about one in seven thinks of it as the most popular sport for children to play. Football, 35%, and soccer, 28%, exceed baseball. Racial differences exist. White Americans, 15%, are more than twice as likely as African Americans, 6%, to say baseball is the leading sport in which children participate. Still, baseball places third among whites, in terms of popularity, and fourth among African Americans.
Why aren’t children playing baseball? Finances are a factor. More than six in ten Americans, 63%, say the cost of playing in top travel leagues is, at least, part of the reason. Additionally, 47% say the equipment is too expensive, and that is, at least, a partial explanation.
Americans wax nostalgic about the sport. Nearly two-thirds of Americans, including a majority of African Americans played baseball as a child. And, baseball, 33%, also ranks first as the sport Americans would like to play with their son. However, while the sport tops the list for white Americans, it comes in fourth among African Americans.
Americans view baseball positively. Most, 83%, consider it a sport which is rich in tradition and not too old-fashioned. Nearly three in four Americans, 74%, call baseball “cool” as opposed to “not cool.” And, nearly six in ten, 59%, say the sport is changing with the times and is not stuck in the past. However, residents divide about baseball’s level of excitement.
Despite Americans’ mostly favorable impressions of the sport, baseball isn’t a major topic around the watercooler. Only 31% say people talk about or follow the sport a lot during baseball season. African Americans are the least likely to keep up with the sport.
This HBO Real Sports/Marist Poll has been conducted in conjunction with the Marist College Center for Sports Communication
“These results help explain what we all suspect — that baseball lags behind other sporting pastimes for American youth, particularly for African-Americans,” says Keith Strudler, Director of the Marist College Center for Sports Communication. “What could be most problematic for baseball officials is that changing the nature of the game may not alter this trend, since the larger impediment is cost, something that will be more difficult to drastically change.”
- 35% of Americans, including 12% who say it is a major problem, think the decline in the number of African American and black, non-Latino Major League Baseball players is troublesome. 65% believe it is not a problem at all.
- Age matters. Americans under 45, 41%, think the proportion of African American and black baseball players is a problem. 31% of those who are older agree.
- 49% of African Americans compared with 34% of whites report the decline is a problem.
Few Americans Think Baseball is Popular Sport among Children
- 15% of Americans consider baseball to be the most popular team sport for children to play followed closely by basketball, 14%. Football, 35%, and soccer, 28%, surpass baseball on the list.
- Racial differences exist. Among whites, 37%, and Latinos, 34%, football is the sport most children play. Soccer comes in second among whites, 32%, and Latinos, 31%. Among African Americans, 41% say children in their community play basketball, and 33% cite football.
- A plurality of men, 39%, considers football to be the most popular sport played by children. Among women, 32% choose football, and a similar proportion, 30%, select soccer.
- Cost factors into perceptions of why some children do not play baseball. More than six in ten residents, 63%, think, at least, part of the reason is because it costs too much to play in top travel leagues. Close to one in five, 18%, say it is the main reason. 37% report it is not a reason at all.
- While a majority of Americans, 53%, reports the cost of equipment is not a factor at all, 47% think children are not stepping up to the plate, partially, because of the expense. A majority of non-white parents, 55%, reports the cost of baseball equipment has, at least, something to do with why some children don’t play the sport, while a majority of white parents, 45%, says it’s not a reason at all.
- There is a perception by 40% of residents that, at least in part, children are not taking up America’s pastime because too many children are needed to play the game. 60% say it is no reason at all.
- 40% believe the length of the game has something to do with why children don’t gravitate toward the game of baseball. Nearly half of African Americans, 47%, say the same.
- About one-third of residents, 33%, thinks baseball takes too much skill, and that factors into why some children do not play the game.
- 32% of Americans believe lack of a nearby ball field is, at least, part of the reason children are not playing baseball. 68% report it is no reason at all. African Americans, 47%, are more likely than Latinos, 36%, and whites, 28%, to think not having a place nearby to play is a reason children don’t play baseball. In fact, close to one in five African American residents, 18%, thinks this is the main reason.
- 31% say not knowing the rules is, at least, part of the reason why some children do not play baseball. 69% report this is not a reason at all. 41% of African Americans, including one in ten who report it is the main reason, attribute not understanding the game as a factor in why some children do not play the sport.
- 31% of adults nationally believe, at least, part of the reason some children don’t play baseball is because the sport is not fun.
Baseball Considered Top Father-Son Sport
- 33% of Americans report baseball is the sport they would like to most play with their son. Basketball is a distant second, 21%. 19% choose soccer, and 18% pick football.
- Again, race enters into the equation. 39% of white Americans would like to take their son to the baseball field while a plurality of African Americans, 34%, would visit a football field with their son. Among Latinos, baseball, 26%, basketball, 25%, and soccer, 25%, receive comparable interest.
- Americans 45 and older, 40%, are more likely than younger residents, 25%, to pick baseball as the sport they would share with their child. Among those under 45, there is little consensus.
- Close to two-thirds of adults nationally, 64%, say they played baseball as a child. This includes 68% of white Americans, 60% of Latinos, and 57% of African Americans.
- Nearly six in ten Americans, 57%, say they are baseball fans.
Baseball Mostly Conjures Positive Associations, But…
- Most Americans, 83%, consider baseball a sport rich in tradition, and only 14% say it is too old-fashioned.
- African Americans, 30%, non-white parents, 28%, and those under 30 years old, 22%, are most likely to refer to baseball as too old-fashioned.
- Baseball is also considered “cool” by 74% of Americans. 22% think it is not.
- Nearly six in ten residents, 59%, think baseball is changing with the times while 33% believe it is stuck in the past.
- 59% report baseball is a sport children play in the city. 35% disagree. African Americans divide. 49% think it is not a game played in the city. 47% say it is.
- Americans are torn about baseball’s excitement level. 50% consider baseball “exciting.” 47% say it is “boring.”
- Only 31% of residents say baseball is a large part of what people talk about or follow during Major League Baseball’s season. An additional 42% report the subject is sometimes part of the conversation. Close to one in four, 23%, says baseball is not part of the watercooler discussion.
- African Americans, 35%, and non-white parents, 32%, are most likely to say baseball is not followed or discussed during the season.
3/24: Injured Top College Athletes Should Not Carry the Costs, Says Majority… Americans Divide over College Degrees in Sports
Americans favor change on a major issue relating to NCAA student-athletes.
Currently, as detailed in Bernie Goldberg’s report in this month’s Real Sports one-hour NCAA special, the NCAA does not require colleges to provide such insurance for their athletes, except in the most extreme circumstances.
Americans’ opinions divide over whether or not college athletes should be permitted to major in and receive degrees in their sport.
Another much debated question is whether or not top college basketball and football players should be paid. Nearly two-thirds of Americans, 65%, do not think they should receive monetary compensation for their time and efforts. However, about one-third of Americans think they should be on the payroll, a slight increase from 29% just last year. Americans under thirty and African Americans are much more supportive of this idea.
Sexual assault on college campuses has been a topic which has drawn recent national attention by, both, politicians and the media. But, when college athletes are involved in such incidents do Americans think they are judged by a different standard? Nearly six in ten residents, 58%, think they are treated differently, including 36% who believe they are given greater slack and 22% who say they are held to a tougher standard.
A plurality of Americans, 46%, though, do not think college athletes are more likely to either commit or be accused of sexual assault than non-athletes. In fact, only 15% believe they are more likely than their college age counterparts to be involved in such incidents.
Again, on many of these questions, opinion differs by age and race.
This HBO Real Sports/Marist Poll has been conducted in conjunction with the Marist College Center for Sports Communication
“The public’s view on post-collegiate health insurance and the ability to even major in sports recognizes that top college athletes are making real sacrifices of time and even physical wellness,” says Dr. Keith Strudler, Director of The Marist College Center for Sports Communication. “It also suggests the public largely sees value in college sports as an academic enterprise. That’s a contrast to the common stereotype of the privileged college athlete.”
- 56% of Americans, including 21% who strongly have this view, support providing health insurance to college athletes after they graduate for long-term medical problems that are a result of injuries they received while playing college sports. 40%, including 12% who firmly have this position, oppose such benefits. Similar proportions of college sports fans have these views.
- Younger Americans are more likely than older residents to support health insurance for college athletes after graduation. 75% of Americans under 30, compared with 47% of those 60 and older share this view.
- Race also comes into play. Nearly half of African Americans, 49%, strongly support such a proposal compared with 27% of Latinos and just 15% of white residents.
- Americans, and college sports fans alike, divide about whether or not college athletes should be allowed to major in and receive a degree in the sport they play. 49% of Americans favor such a program while 45% oppose it.
- Demographic differences exist. African Americans, 69%, residents under 30 years old, 60%, Midwesterners, 57%, and residents without college degrees, 55%, are among those who offer the most support for majors in college sports.
- 65% of Americans do not think student athletes in top men’s football and basketball programs should be paid. 33% believe they should be. There has been a slight increase in the proportion of those who say these athletes should be paid. When HBO Real Sports/Marist reported this question last March, 29% of residents supported such compensation.
- While majorities of those in all generations oppose paying college athletes, residents under 30, 41%, are the most likely to favor it. This is an increase from 34% in March 2014.
- 59% of African Americans favor paying college athletes. 42% of Latinos and 26% of whites share this view. There has been a shift among Latinos. Last year, 27% supported monetary compensation for top college athletes.
- Nearly six in ten Americans, 58%, think college athletes who commit sexual assault are not treated the same as non-college athletes. This includes 22% who say they are treated more harshly and 36% who report they are treated less harshly. Only 33% think they receive the same treatment. Of note, 42% of Americans age 45 to 59 think college athletes accused of sexual assault face less severe penalties than those who do not play a sport.
- While pluralities of African Americans, 43%, and Latinos, 39%, assert that college athletes and non-athletes who commit sexual assault are on level ground, 40% of whites say athletes are dealt with less harshly. A notable 32% of African Americans say they are treated more harshly.
- 46% of Americans say top college athletes are no more likely to commit or be accused of sexual assault than non-athletes. A notable 32%, however, report that sports players are more likely to be accused of sexual crimes, and 15% think they are more likely to commit them.
Looking back at some of the sports stories that made headlines in 2014, domestic violence in the National Football League tops the list as the year’s biggest sports story. Regardless of demographic group, this story is the one that resonated most with sports fans nationally.
When it comes to the biggest sports accomplishment during the past twelve months, the San Francisco Giants third World Series victory in five years and the advance of the men’s national soccer team to the elimination round of the World Cup top the list. And, while Peyton Manning is considered to be the athlete with the largest impact on his sport in 2014, LeBron James gives him a run for his money. On many of these questions, there are differences based on race and age.
This Marist Poll is done in conjunction with The Marist College Center for Sports Communication.
“These results reinforce the prominence of football in America. It’s once again where America finds its biggest star and its most dire situation,” says Dr. Keith Strudler, Director of The Marist College Center for Sports Communication. “Americans are sending the NFL a clear message that they want the League to establish a sustainable domestic abuse policy.”
- Nearly half of sports fans, 49%, cite the domestic violence controversies in the NFL as the story with the biggest impact on sports this year. The banning of Donald Sterling, the, now, former owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, from the NBA for his racist remarks places a distant second with 24%. Academic fraud in University athletic programs is mentioned by 11% while another 11% think the suspension of Alex Rodriguez for using performing enhancing drugs had the largest effect on sports in 2014.
- When it comes to the biggest sports accomplishment of the year, 29% of fans think the San Francisco Giants third World Series win in five years takes the top spot while 27% believe the advance of the U.S. Men’s national soccer team to the elimination round of the World Cup deserves the top honor. One in five sports fans, 20%, mentions the wins by both UCONN’s men and women in the NCAA basketball championship, and a similar, 19%, cite Serena Williams 18th Grand Slam victory.
- Age and race matter on this question. 38% of sports fans under 30 and 31% of those 60 and older choose the Giants’ win while 36% of those 30 to 44 think the men’s performance in the World Cup deserves the top honor. There is little consensus among those 45 to 59. Looking at race, 42% of Latino sports fans select the Giants’ World Series win while 37% of African Americans choose Serena Williams’ 18th Grand Slam title. White sports fans are torn between the performance by the men’s U.S. soccer team, 30%, and this year’s World Series victors, 29%.
- NFL quarterback Peyton Manning, 33%, edges out LeBron James, 29%, as the player who had the biggest impact on their sport this year. This is the third year that Manning has been selected as the most influential player by sports fans. A majority of sports fans, 55%, selected Manning in 2013. MLB’s Derek Jeter was chosen by 24% of sports fans this year. One in ten fans pick professional soccer player Lionel Messi.
- Age and race make a difference. 42% of sports fans 60 and older and 38% of those 30 to 44 believe Manning had the largest influence on his sport, football. 32% of sports fans under 30 say James is tops as the player with the greatest impact on his sport, basketball. There is little consensus among sports fans 45 to 59 years of age. Nearly half of African American sports fans, 48%, and a plurality of Latinos, 35%, selects James while 37% of white sports fans choose Manning.
- Six in ten Americans, 60%, up from 55% last year, are sports fans.
Keith Strudler, Ph.D., is the director for the Marist College Center for Sports Communication. Dr. Strudler founded Marist’s popular concentration in sports communication in 2002, now one of the nation’s largest in the discipline. He studies and teaches in the areas of sports media, sports and society, and sports reporting and information. Dr. Strudler also writes weekly sports commentary for WAMC, an NPR radio station in Albany, NY.
9/18: Majority Calls Foul on NFL Response to Domestic Violence Cases, but Only Three in Ten Want Goodell to Go
In the wake of several cases of alleged domestic violence by professional football players, 53% of Americans, including 57% of football fans, think the National Football League has dropped the ball in handling the situation. Still, only 29% of Americans and 32% of fans believe NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell should lose his job. 43% of residents and 46% of fans do not want him to resign as commissioner.
In light of the controversy swirling around Minnesota Viking running back Adrian Peterson, Americans also weighed in on whether or not it is wrong for parents to use corporal punishment to discipline their children. 60% of Americans, including 67% of women, do not think it is an appropriate way to discipline children. 34% of residents think it is an appropriate action for a parent to take, including 51% of Americans who live in the South. In other regions of the country, only about one-quarter of residents agree.
Awareness of the NFL controversy over domestic violence is widespread. 86% of Americans, including 93% of football fans, have heard, at least, something about the accusations of domestic violence by NFL players. About one in ten football fans, 11%, says the recent news about the NFL has made them less likely to watch the sport. 86% of football fans say their viewing habits will be unchanged.
- 53% of Americans disapprove of how the NFL has handled the domestic violence accusations against some of its players while 27% approve. 21% are unsure. Among football fans, 57% say the League should have responded differently, and 30% report the NFL’s response has been on the mark. 14% are unsure.
- When it comes to Goodell’s future, 29% of Americans want Goodell to resign. 43% think he should retain his position, and a notable 29% are unsure. Among football fans, 32% believe Goodell should step down, 46% want him to remain commissioner, and 21% are unsure.
- Looking at the impact this controversy has had on NFL viewership, 85% of residents, including 86% of football fans, say it has not changed the amount of football they watch. However, 12% of Americans, including 11% of fans, report they are less likely to tune into NFL games.
- While 60% of Americans, including 59% of football fans, report it is not acceptable to discipline their children by hitting them with a paddle, switch, or belt, 34% of residents say it is. 35% of football fans are among those who condone corporal punishment.
- Looking at gender, 67% of women and 52% of men disapprove of physically reprimanding their children.
- 51% of residents in the South believe corporal punishment is appropriate compared with 27% in the West, 25% in the Midwest, and 20% in the Northeast.
- 86% have heard, at least, a little about the recent controversy involving the NFL, including 93% of football fans.
- 71% of Americans describe themselves as football fans, including 77% of men who watch at least a little professional football and 65% of women.
Major League Baseball is in full swing, but has last season’s player suspensions for using performance-enhancing drugs rubbed fans the wrong way? 68% of baseball fans nationally think the MLB has taken the right steps. In fact, one in five — 20% — believes the league hasn’t gone far enough. Only 8% say their actions have gone too far. Four percent are unsure.
More Fans Expected to Head to the Ballpark
While half of baseball fans — 50% — say they did not attend any MLB games last year and don’t plan to do so this season either, there has been an increase in the proportion of fans who think they will go to more games this year. Nearly one in five — 19% — expects to go to more baseball games this season. 27% say they will attend about the same amount of games they did last year, and only 4% plan to go to fewer.
When Marist last reported this question in March 2013, 54% of fans said they wouldn’t be making a trip to the stadium. 13% reported they would be attending more games than in the past year while 28% said they would be attending about the same number of baseball games. Six percent, at that time, believed they would be making fewer outings to the ballpark.
- Fans younger than 45 are the key. 32% of fans in this age group think they will be attending more baseball games this season. This is up from 19% last year. Among those 45 or older, 12% expect to make more trips to the stadium this year compared with 9% previously.
- While fans who earn $50,000 or more annually — 22% — are slightly more likely than those who make less — 17% — to increase their ballgame attendance, there has been a bump in the proportion of fans in both income groups who expect to do so. Last year, 15% of fans who earn $50,000 or more said they would be going to more games. 12% who made less said the same.
Although nearly half of fans — 49% — do not think the cost of a ticket to a major league game is a good value for the money, 41% believe it is a good bang for their buck. 10% are unsure. These findings suggest more fans find value in going to a game this season than last spring. At that time, 52% of fans said the price of a ticket was not a good value. 37% thought it was, and 11% were unsure.
How many Americans are baseball fans? 45% of residents follow professional baseball a great deal — 9%, a good amount — 8%, or a little — 28%. However, a majority — 55% — does not watch baseball at all.
Michael Sam, the University of Missouri defensive lineman who publicly announced he is gay, will participate in this year’s NFL Draft. What impact, if any, will Sam’s sexual orientation have on his NFL prospects? Close to two-thirds of football fans nationally — 65% — do not think it will make any difference where he is selected in the draft. One in four — 25% — thinks NFL teams will be less likely to pick him while 6% say it will make teams more likely to select Sam. Three percent are unsure.
This Marist Poll has been done in conjunction with The Marist College Center for Sports Communication.
Men are slightly more likely than women to think that Sam’s announcement will have a negative impact on his professional football future. 29% of men, compared with 20% of women, believe Sam’s sexual orientation will make NFL teams less likely to choose him.
“These results indicate that many football fans view professional football as a sport which is increasingly accepting of openly gay athletes,” says Dr. Keith Strudler, Director of The Marist College Center for Sports Communication. ”They believe that Michael Sam’s abilities, not his orientation, will determine his professional future.”
To be eligible for the NFL Draft, football players need to be out of high school for at least three years. And, more than seven in ten football fans — 71% — think this is the right amount of time to wait before entering the draft. 15% believe the length of time is too long while 12% say it is not long enough. Two percent are unsure.
Majority Supports Rookie Salary Cap
57% of football fans think there should be a salary cap for new players and that they should be paid less than players who have more experience. 39%, however, believe rookies should receive whatever the market will pay them even if they earn more than their experienced teammates. Four percent are unsure. Men — 41% — are slightly more likely than women — 36% — to think the pay limit should be lifted.
How many Americans are football fans? 65% follow professional football, at least, a little. This includes 22% who watch a great deal of the game, 16% who follow a good amount of it, and 27% who catch a few games. 36% of adults nationally do not follow the game at all. The proportion of football fans has remained steady. When Marist last reported this question in 2011, 67% of Americans said they followed football, at least, a little.
Although there is a gender divide, nearly six in ten women — 57% — say they are football fans. This compares with more than seven in ten men — 72% — who follow the sport.