10/23: Youth Football Takes Hard Hit… One-Third of Americans Less Likely to Allow Son to Play Football because of Head Injury Risk
Most Americans are aware of the connection between concussions suffered while playing football and long-term brain injury, and that information would influence some Americans’ decision to allow their son to play the sport if they had to make the choice. About one in three Americans say this knowledge would make them less likely to allow a son to participate in the game. In fact, nearly one in five Americans say this risk would be the key factor in deciding whether or not they would allow their son to step onto the gridiron. About one-third of Americans has become more concerned because of the link between concussions suffered while playing football and long-term brain injury.
“Historically, youth football has fueled the NFL,” says Dr. Keith Strudler, Director of The Marist College Center for Sports Communication. “Parents’ concern about the safety of the game could jeopardize the future of the sport.”
Most U.S. adults — 86% — have heard at least a little about the connection between concussions inflicted while on the football field and long-term brain injury. This includes 55% who have heard either a great deal or good amount and 31% who have heard a little about this link. 14% have heard nothing at all about it.
Awareness varies based upon a family’s income. While about two-thirds of Americans who earn $50,000 or more annually — 66% — have heard a great deal or a good amount about the issue, 47% of those who earn less say the same. There are also differences based on education. While 63% of college graduates have heard a great deal or a good amount about the link between these head injuries and long-term brain trauma, 50% of those without a college degree are comparably aware.
33% of Americans say the link between head injuries in football and long-term brain trauma would make them less likely to allow their son to play football if they had to make that choice. Only 7% report it would make them more likely to do so, and 60% say it would make no difference to their decision. Just how many Americans would ultimately allow their son to play the game? 85% would while a notable 13% would not. Two percent are unsure.
For almost one in five Americans — 16%, the risk of long-term brain injury due to youth football participation would be the deciding factor in whether or not to allow their son to play football. And, a majority of U.S. adults — 56% — say it would be one of the factors that influences their decision. 28% report this information would play no role at all in making that choice.
Nearly four in ten U.S. residents — 39% — report the recent information about long-term brain injury as a result of concussions incurred while playing football hasn’t changed their level of concern about the game. However, 32% say it has made them more concerned because of the serious risk of long-term brain injury while 30% report it has made them less concerned because coaches, parents, and players are more informed and can take greater precautions.
Weighing the Pros and Cons
Seven in ten Americans — 70% — think the benefits of playing football outweigh the risk of injury. However, about one in four — 24% — believe the risk of injury is too high. Seven percent are unsure.
A similar proportion of adults nationally — 74% — think playing football is a good way to build character and boys should be encouraged to play the game. However, one in five — 20% — say the risk of injury is too high to allow boys to play football. Six percent are unsure.
“What will be interesting to watch is if other sports begin to recruit those kids whose parents keep them from football,” says Dr. Keith Strudler, Director of The Marist College Center for Sports Communication. “Football’s loss could be the inevitable gain of lacrosse, baseball, or even soccer.”
More Than One in Ten Fans Less Likely to Enjoy Game
The recent information about the link between concussions suffered while playing football and long-term brain injury makes watching the sport less enjoyable for a notable 14% of football fans. Only 2% report it makes the game more enjoyable to watch, and 84% say it makes no difference to their viewing pleasure.
In their own communities, how big of a deal is football? Nearly seven in ten Americans — 69% — report a lot of people follow and talk about the sport. One in four — 25% — say some people are engaged in the game. Only 7% do not follow or talk about football.
About Keith Strudler, Ph.D.
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.
With the NFL season underway, is there a sleeper team in the mix? According to this Marist Poll, there’s no clear surprise among football fans nationally. Nine percent of fans think the Detroit Lions will be the biggest surprise this season, 6% believe the Dallas Cowboys will come out of nowhere while the same proportion — 6% — say the Philadelphia Eagles will be this year’s upset team. The Green Bay Packers are perceived by 5% to charge the field and shock football fans while 4% say the Oakland Raiders will split the uprights as the NFL’s surprise of the season. A majority — 55% — believe another team will shock fans and commentators alike, and 15% are unsure.
The proportion of football fans remains consistent. 67% of adults nationally report they watch football at least a little. Included here are 22% who tune into the sport a great deal, 17% who follow it a good amount, and 28% who watch it a little. 34% of U.S. residents, however, do not follow the sport at all.
In November 2010, 68% followed professional football at least a little. Included here are 18% who admitted to being an armchair quarterback most of the time, 15% who caught a good amount of football fever, and 35% reported they followed a little of the action on the gridiron. 32%, at that time, said they had no interest in the sport.
The Pittsburgh Steelers and Green Bay Packers will face off this Sunday in Super Bowl XLV. But, there’s an off-field battle brewing. Of American adults who are planning to watch the big game this year, will they be tuning in for the game or for the ads? According to this national Marist Poll, the battle for the Lombardi trophy reigns supreme. 74% say they watch the Super Bowl more for the game while 26% tune in more for the commercials.
Little has changed since last year. In Marist’s February 2010 survey, 78% reported they watched more for the game while 22% said they wanted to check out the commercials.
There currently is a gender gap. 84% of men are more into the game itself rather than the ads. This compares with 63% of women.
The NFL has been cracking down on players who commit illegal helmet-to-helmet hits with fines and suspensions. But, what do football fans think the punishment should be for this type of player conduct? More than one-fifth — 27% — believe these players should be, both, fined and suspended. An additional 31% say they should be only fined while 22% believe they should just be suspended. One-fifth — 20% — believe neither punishment should be used.
Younger football fans are more tolerant of helmet-to-helmet hits. 27% of those younger than 30 years old don’t think any punishment should be imposed compared with 14% of fans 60 and older.
There is also a gender gap on this question. More men — 26% — compared with women — 11% — don’t think players should be penalized at all for these hard hits.
As for the number of U.S. residents who are professional football fans, 68% of residents report they watch the sport, at least, a little. There has been no change on this question since Marist’s October survey.
54% of U.S. residents are college football fans. This includes 12% who watch college football a great deal, 10% who enjoy a good amount of it, and 32% who say they follow it a little. 46% do not watch college football at all.
Men, residents who earn $50,000 or more annually, and those in the Midwest, West, and South are those who are most likely to be college football fans.
Americans, however, are more inclined to be professional football fans than college football fans. More than two-thirds of U.S. residents — 68% — tune into the NFL at least a little bit. This includes 20% who watch the sport a great deal, 16% who follow it a good amount, and 32% who catch it a little. 32% do not watch it all.
Although there is little difference among geographic regions, men and Americans younger than 45 years old are more likely to be professional football fans.
Is there an overlap in the proportion of U.S. residents who watch both professional football and college football? Yes. Nearly half of Americans — 49% — watch both NFL and college football. The proportion who watches just professional football outnumbers those who tune into just college football. Nearly one in five — 19% — check out only the pros tossing the pigskin around while only 5% follow just college teams. More than one in four residents — 27% — do not watch either professional or college football.
Quarterback brothers Eli and Peyton Manning will square off this Sunday night when the Indianapolis Colts play the New York Giants. So, which brother will claim bragging rights in the Manning family? According to 61% of football fans nationally, Peyton Manning will lead the Colts to victory this Sunday while 27% report that younger brother Eli and the Giants will be triumphant. 12% are unsure.
While Peyton Manning is the favorite among football fans, regardless of geographic region, more fans in the Northeast (40%) than in the West (25%), Midwest (23%), and the South (22%) think Eli Manning will lead the Giants to victory.
Saints Shine as Early Super Bowl Favorites
The NFL season may have just begun, but football fans are already prognosticating about the Super Bowl. Who is the early favorite? 13% of football fans think the New Orleans Saints will receive the Lombardi trophy for the second consecutive year. 9% have their money on the New England Patriots while 7% predict the Pittsburgh Steelers will be victorious. The Dallas Cowboys, Indianapolis Colts, and Green Bay Packers each receive the support of 6% of football fans. 34% think another team will win, and 19% of fans are unsure.
Not surprisingly, there are regional differences on this question. Football fans in the Northeast – 22% — are more likely to choose the Patriots than any other team. In the Midwest, 15% back the Saints, but the Colts and Packers follow closely behind. Each receive 12%. The Saints are also the top pick in the South. Here, 16% predict the Saints will win the Super Bowl. 13%, though, are banking on the Cowboys. And, in the West, the Saints and the Steelers vie for the top spot. Each team gets the support of 10% of football fans.
Men are more likely than women to favor the Saints in their Super Bowl pick.
Who do football fans think will have the better football season this year? Will it be the New York Jets or the New York Giants? Find out in the latest NY Daily News/Marist Poll. To read the full Daily News article, click here.
Tables for The Marist Poll Conducted for the Daily News:
Although more than three-quarters of Americans who plan to tune in this Sunday — 78% — say they watch the Super Bowl for the game, a notable proportion — 22% — say the commercials are the main attraction.
As usual, this year’s Super Bowl ads are generating a lot of attention, but the introduction of advocacy ads is adding a new layer to the discussion. Networks have, previously, been hesitant to include issue-related commercials during Super Bowl coverage. And, nearly one-half of Americans — 49% — agree with that precedent, saying it is inappropriate for such ads to be allowed during the game. 44%, on the other hand, believe they are appropriate.
Although 49% of Americans oppose the inclusion of advocacy ads during the Super Bowl, 60% think CBS has made the right move to allow a pro-life ad sponsored by the group Focus on the Family, featuring Heisman Trophy winner and Florida Gators Quarterback Tim Tebow and his mother. 30%, though, think it should not air, and 10% are unsure.
Overall, how should CBS make the decision about whether to air responsibly-produced advocacy ads? If it were up to the American people, 34% report the network should pick and choose the issue-related commercials to be included while 25% believe all advocacy ads should be allowed on a first-come basis. 36% don’t think they should be aired at all.
What do those in broadcasting have to say about the Tim Tebow ad?
Lee Salzberger has a worked in the broadcast industry for 40 years. He has managed television station affiliates of CBS and ABC and, as a group head, has additional Fox responsibilities. Salzberger has served on the ABC Board of Affiliates and has taught television sales and programming at the University of North Texas for the past five years.
When Salzberger spoke with the Marist Poll’s John Sparks, he shared his insights into the advocacy ad discussion:
Lee, in the past, television stations and networks may have been reluctant to air commercials on policy issues such as abortion and gay rights. Why is that, Lee?
Listen to the interview:
Gee, I wish I could answer that question why. I think it’s the climate of the country, and I think the climate of the country has continued to grow and certainly is more liberal than it has been in the past with the present administration; and I don’t know that I would say that’s entirely the reason, but I think it’s certainly a big portion of it.
You have managed television stations. Are there standards that broadcasters adhere to in deciding whether to air commercials that one might describe as an advocacy spot?
The individual stations really don’t have any particular kind of guidance in this particular issue. It is how they believe their licensed community might feel. But, as you said, John, this is a network commercial and although the network is not licensed by the federal government, the stations are and it’s up to the individual stations to determine whether or not they choose to individually or not telecast that particular commercial. In my judgment, it is likely that most of the television stations will likely telecast this commercial without reservation. It’s just another network commercial.
Do you think that this could set a precedent for advocacy ads in future Super Bowls?
I don’t think it’s particularly precedent setting. I can’t at this very moment recall any particular ads that may have been advocacy involved in the past, but I at the same time don’t feel that this is anything that is so particularly out of bounds that it would have been so rattling to the cages of everybody.
You have sold television time. Any thoughts on the impact this ad might have?
You know, John, if it sells, then it works. If it doesn’t sell, it’s not a good ad. I haven’t seen the ad; you haven’t seen it; nobody has seen it, to the best of my knowledge, broadcast yet, so I can’t really speak to whether or not it will be or is an effective presentation of the issue.
Is there anything else you’d like to add or clarify on the subject?
No, John, other than the licensee, the individual station, by virtue of the Communications Act has the opportunity to accept or deny access to its microphone. I believe that’s the actual phrase. But you know, I just don’t see stations taking particular and specific action either for or against this particular ad. I think the network has done its due diligence in investigating the copy and probably investigating the visual elements of this. I don’t think they would telecast anything that was so extraordinary that would take the viewers into a total other area of belief without saying, “Hey, it’s just an ad, and we’ll take care of the other side through other opportunities from the standpoint of equal opportunity.”
Peggy Wehmeyer was the national religion correspondent for ABC-TV. She spoke with the Marist Poll’s John Sparks on possible effects of the Tim Tebow/Focus on the Family Super Bowl Commercial.
Peggy, while there’ve been television commercials aired by Pro-Life groups in the past, there hasn’t really been such a precedent to air one during a national broadcast that would attract 90-million viewers like the Super Bowl. With CBS’ decision to accept the ad, do you think that we might see more of this sort of ad placement in the future?
Listen to the interview:
I think unless CBS changes its position after this based on the outcry to the ad that they’re getting, sure, I would expect we’ll see more of these kinds of ads in the future. I mean, look at all the publicity it’s getting, which might actually be good for CBS. If anyone who had forgotten over the last few years who Focus on the Family was, they’re now back on the radar screen, and I would imagine their donations will even go up as a result of this, so I would think so.
What would you say the pros and cons are for Focus on the Family about running such an ad?
You know, I think the pros will be, as I mentioned, that it puts them back on the radar screen. They’re an activist organization. They want this kind of attention especially on social issues like abortion. So for the people who have supported Focus on the Family in the past, this is going to be evidence that “Oh, they’re still doing some — they’re still stirring up the waters. They’re still doing what we used to support them for doing,” and it might actually engender more dedication to this group. My guess is, and I’m not certain, but there’s probably — they have less support than they used to, so maybe this will be a good thing from their point of view. On the other hand, it will make their so-called enemies of the people who have never liked what Focus on the Family stands for. It will probably harden their positions against them, but that might actually help Focus on the Family also because that’s part of how they fundraise.
So do you think that they run the risk of drawing more negative attention than positive on this thing?
You know, I think Focus on the Family would hope to use Tim Tebow’s celebrity status to sway people who might be in the middle on the abortion issue, and I think that’s where most people are. So from Focus on the Family’s perspective, I think for them it might be a positive thing. Politically, it puts them in the position from the less point of view, at least, of being troublemakers.
Do you think that there is some yardstick measure that they might use to determine if the Tebow ad is successful?
You know, I think it’s very hard to measure whether this ad is successful if it runs. And I guess it depends on how you define success. Did you define it by saying, “Did it stop women from getting abortions?” Perhaps you could do some kind of scientific poll with those who saw the ad and ask them whether it changed their views on abortion. I doubt actually it will. Most likely, I would expect it to strengthen people’s support of groups like Focus on the Family who sponsored the ad or create an even greater backlash against these kinds of groups. You could measure … one way you could measure is whether donations to Focus on the Family, which sponsored the ad, are up or maybe donations to Pro-Life groups went up. I mean you could look at that, I suppose.
I’ve heard a report that suggests that more viewers of the Super Bowl over the years remember the ads than they do even the teams or the scores of a particular Super Bowl. If that’s indeed true, what kind of impact do you think the Tebow ad might have for Focus on the Family and the Pro-Life movement?
Well, it’s really hard to pinpoint what the impact of this ad will be. Sure there’s a chance. There’s a chance it might make a young pregnant girl think about having an abortion. It might make her change her mind about an abortion. It will make Pro-Choice people even more adamant that they get their message out. It might really ramp up the whole abortion debate. Mostly I think the Tim Tebow ad will fuel, unfortunately, the culture war battle lines over abortion. But you know these things don’t last for long because they die down after awhile, so I don’t anticipate that it will have any real long-term impact.
So do you think with CBS accepting the ad that NARAL and other groups might seek to buy time in next year’s Super Bowl or the World Series or the Final Four?
Sure. I think women’s groups and other liberal groups will shout and protest about this airing of the ad; and if they don’t win their campaign to stop it from getting on CBS and CBS airs it anyway, it wouldn’t really surprise me if they take the tact: Well if you can’t beat them, join them, and then we’ll have dueling ads. But I doubt CBS is going to let that or any other network would let that get out of hand.
Speaking of getting out of hand, if we could envision commercial breaks at national sporting events becoming cluttered with advocacy ads, do you think that the networks might reverse this position? CBS kind of put it out there in accepting this ad. It’s kind of a first for a national ad buy like this.
You know, I think CBS and the networks have control over their advertising space. There are too many other advertisers who are not advocating social issues that are clamoring for air time. I doubt commercial breaks will be cluttered with advocacy ads. The public would hate it, and it wouldn’t help the network, and the network will always do what is in its best interest.