Professional athletes across America have been using their platforms to speak out publicly on racial unrest and protest against racismSparked by NBA player’s walkouts, civil disobedience in sports has become widely practiced by players.

Now, athletes from across the spectrum have been using their platforms to highlight civil unrest from NHL and  NASCAR allowing protests during the national anthem to Naomi Osaka, a tennis champion from Japan, wearing masks in memory of victims of police violence at the U.S Open. 

TapResearch wanted to gauge U.S public opinion on athlete’s protests and their impact on individual watching habits.  We surveyed 1,000 people ages 18-99 who live in the United States. The full results of this poll can be found here.

Our findings show that 56.22% of respondents believe it is “very acceptable” or “somewhat acceptable” for professional athletes to use their platform to speak out publicly about national issues.

When the data is broken down by who Americans plan to vote for in the 2020 election, 30.3% of Trump supporters think it’s “not at all acceptable” for professional athletes to use their platform to speak out publicly about national issues compared to 2.8% of Biden supporters.

30.3% of Trump supporters think it’s “not at all acceptable” for professional athletes to use their platform to speak out publicly about national issues compared to 2.8% of Biden supporters.

Our result suggests that younger generations like Gen Z and Millennials etc. (people aged 18-44)  feel that it is more important that athletes they support share their political views than it is for older generations like Baby Boomers and Silent (people aged 45-99). 

For instance, 63% of respondents aged 18-24  think it is “very important” or “somewhat important” that athletes they support share their political views compared to only 33% of respondents aged 55-64.

At the beginning of September, the highly anticipated NFL season started with racial injustice themes on display across the field. Many NFL players kneeled, locked arms, raised fists, or stayed off the field entirely during the national anthem as they opened their season. A year ago these player’s civil disobedience would not have been supported by the league like it has been in the recent weeks after an offseason marked by a global pandemic and civil unrest.  However, what is the U.S public support levels for these protests? 

Our poll suggests that feelings about NFL player’s protests are highly polarized among the U.S population with 29.2% of respondents strongly supporting and 27.7% strongly opposing. 

If we break it down by political affiliation we see that respondent’s opinions are divided down political lines. 49.97% of Biden supporters strongly support NFL player’s protests compared to 13.17% of Trump supporters inversely 52.1% of Trump supporters strongly oppose NFL player’s protests compared to 10.45% of Biden supporters.

If you apply these opinions into actions we see that the divide down political lines translates into the effect of player’s social activism on watching habits. 52.1% of Trump supporters plan to watch less sports and  34.79% of Biden supporters plan to watch more sports. 

Lastly, we asked respondents for their thoughts on if social activism in sports will be effective in helping achieve change in society. We found that 59.3% of respondents think that social activism in sports will be “very effective” or “somewhat effective” in creating change. 

Ultimately, our poll highlights a deep divide in opinions by political affiliation with Biden supporters supporting the merging of sports and social activism at higher levels than Trump supporters. 

About the Poll

TapResearch conducted this survey across its network of random mobile devices. The two polls were conducted on September 15, 2020, with 1,0012 respondents each. 

If you’re a marketer or decision-maker and would like to run a survey about your brand across the TapResearch audience network please contact Michael Sprague at michael@tapresearch.com.

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