Just days before the Super Bowl, a new poll suggests the NFL is losing much of its core audience following a season filled with controversy.
A survey conducted by The Wall Street Journal and NBC News revealed on Friday that the number adults who say they closely follow the professional football league has seen a huge dip, decreasing 9 percent from 2014. Plus, the league core demographic — men between the ages of 18 and 49 who say they follow the NFL closely — is down from 75 percent to just 51 percent over the same period.
The poll was conducted from January 13-17 of this year and included interviews with 900 adults, but did not require respondents to indicate why their interest in the league may have changed over the past few years. However, the results do follow a season in which the NFL has seemed to remain embroiled in controversy as the league struggled to handle backlash from fans over protests in which hundreds of players either sat or kneeled during the national anthem.
The 2017 season also came along with frequent comments and lashing out from President Donald Trump, who publicly ranted about the protests via Twitter on a number of occasions and even called for players who failed to stand for the anthem to be fired. During this time, the league also saw an 8 percent decline in ratings from last season.
Another controversy rocking the NFL as of late is the number of players suffering from concussions and growing concerns over long-term effects of repeated head trauma. 53 percent of mothers polled indicated that they would encourage their children to play a sport other than football due to the possibility of concussions — a number that grew from 40 percent since 2014. Even 49 percent of respondents who don’t have children said they would want their hypothetical child to play another sport, a 6 percent increase over the same period. Less than half of those polled believe the NFL has done enough to reduce and prevent concussions, dropping from 59 to 47 percent in the past four years.
Unfortunately for the league, it looks like the displeasure is being extended to the upcoming Super Bowl, as another poll released this week revealed that just 54 percent of Americans plan on watching on Sunday compared to the 68 percent from two years ago.