Majority Of Americans Oppose Trump Position On N.F.L. Anthem Protests

Most Americans disagree with Trump on the N.F.L. National Anthem protests, but Republicans are behind him.

A new poll says that a majority of American voters disagree with President Trump regarding the National Anthem protests by N.F.L. players:

A majority of U.S. voters say that National Football League players who kneel in protest during the national anthem are not unpatriotic, according to a new poll released Thursday.

By a 58 percent to 35 percent margin, those surveyed in a Quinnipiac University poll voiced disagreement with the notion that players who, during games, protest police shootings of unarmed black men are disrespectful of America. A majority of voters, 53 percent, also offered support for athletes’ right to protest on their playing fields and courts, while 43 percent expressed opposition.

The findings were sharply divided along partisan lines. Seventy percent of Republicans called NFL players kneeling unpatriotic and 81 percent said they did not have a right to protest during games, while 85 percent and 82 percent of Democrats disagreed, respectively.

Demographically, voters largely agreed the protests are not disrespectful of the country, with the sentiment mustering a majority across genders, racial groups, education levels and ages. But racial divisions on the issue were more visible in responses to the question of whether players are entitled to protest during games, with a 53 percent majority of white voters saying they are not and a majority of African-American and Hispanic voters, 85 percent and 67 percent respectively, standing by athletes’ right to express themselves.

The Washington Post has further details from the poll:

The most recent data shows that a narrow majority of Americans don’t see the issue as the president does. A Quinnipiac poll released Tuesday found the following:

  • 58 percent of American voters don’t think players who protest racial injustice by kneeling during the anthem are unpatriotic.
  • 53 percent believe that athletes have the right to protest on the playing field or court.
  • 51 percent oppose fining NFL teams if players do not stand for the anthem.
  • 51 percent support the NFL policy requiring players on the field stand for the anthem.

“Voters are clearly torn on the national anthem issue. They seem to be saying, ‘You can still love your country and kneel during its Anthem,’ but the NFL’s new ‘must stand’ mandate is fine with them, too,” Tim Malloy, assistant director of the poll said.  “As for teams that defy the new rule, Americans say, ‘Don’t throw a flag on them.’ ”

But the differing views of various groups of Americans on the issue are worth noting.


The overwhelming majority of Republicans — 81 percent — say that players do not have the right to protest on the playing field. And more than half of white voters, a group Trump won in 2016 that continues to give him favorable marks, say athletes do not have the right to protest. But most Americans are not Republicans and a growing number of people in the country are not white. And their views on the issue are worth considering — particularly because some of these other groups view the issue so differently than Trump.

  • Most independent voters say professional athletes have the right to protest on the field or court.
  • Nearly 7 in 10 Hispanic voters say athletes have the right to protest.
  • The overwhelming majority — 85 percent — of black voters say the NFL players have the right to protest.

And this chart shows the stark differences among certain demographic groups: (click to enlarge)

These numbers are largely consistent with previous polling on the issue of the National Anthem protests which have indicated that most Americans support the players by a fairly substantial margin, the same result can be seen in polls taken polling in both September and October of last year in the wake of Trump deciding to resurrect the issue at a political rally in Alabama. At the same time, though, these same polls have shown that Republicans, Whites, and, where identified, self-described conservatives have been united in their opposition to the player protest and supportive of the President’s positions. This is, of course, entirely unsurprising given the general attitude that people on the right have when it comes to “patriotism” and anyone who declines to go through the ritual of appropriately saluting the American flag. Additionally, it seems rather obvious that the racial angle of this story plays a role in how the right reacts to the player protests. For the most part, the players who have engaged in this form of protests are predominantly African-American. They are also attempting to draw attention to issues such as racial division, police brutality and abuse that is disproportionately impacting young African-American men, and the fact that, for the most part police officers charged in connection with police shooting incidents are either cleared of charges without trial or acquitted due to the broad discretion the law grants to the use of force by police. By and large, these are issues on which most on the right tend to support law enforcement notwithstanding their supposed belief in individual rights and limited government. One need only look to how the majority of people on the right have reacted in the past to individual episodes where these issues have come to the fore — such as the Michael Brown case and the Eric Garner case — to see that.

Given this, it’s unlikely that any amount of polling on the issue is going to deter the President from continuing to pick at this issue as much as he can just as he did earlier this week when he canceled the visit of the Philadelphia Eagles to the White House even though no Eagles player had kneeled during the National Anthem during the 2017 regular season. As with so many other issues, Trump will continue to pick at, and reopen, this wound as long as it continues to play well with his base. Indeed, earlier this week CNN reported that Trump thinks that pushing on this issue will help the Republican Party in November:

The start of the N.F.L. season is three months away, just in time for the run-up to the midterm elections. You can rest assured that Trump will be bringing this up again, because he thinks it will energize his base, and he’s probably right about that.

Update: This post was updated to add the analysis from The Washington Post.

FILED UNDER: Donald Trump, Politicians, Popular Culture, Sports, US Politics
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook


  1. An Interested Party says:

    A majority of Americans disagree with the Orange Blob on most issues…

  2. gVOR08 says:

    A few observations:

    Nobody is a single issue voter on this issue.

    Trump, and Republicans in general, are not appealing to a majority. They are following Rove’s strategy and trying to motivate turnout by a minority. Given that that minority is largely exurban/rural, and that our system advantages rural voters, this can work again.

    No matter how many issues, like this one, poll left, the pundit class will still ritually invoke, “The U. S. is a Center-Right nation” at every opportunity.

  3. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    Dennison was on TV just before I left the house this morning, talking to the press pool before boarding AF1 for the G6 + 1.
    Speaking about the players protesting he said:

    I’m going to ask all of those people to recommend to me — because that’s what their protesting…People that they think were unfairly treated by the justice system. I understand that. I’m going to ask them to recommend to me people that were unfairly treated. Friends of theirs, or people they know about and I’m going to take a look at those applications. If I find — if my committee finds they’re unfairly treated, we will pardon them or at least let them out.

    The idiocy in that statement is so beyond description.
    The players are protesting police brutality and racial inequality.
    And fvcking Dennison wants a fvcking list?
    This in and of itself should be an impeachable offense. High crimes and misdemeanors and rank stupidity.
    The only people dumber than this stupid mother fvcker are the fvcking idiots who support him.

  4. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    Oh yeah…Dennison is going to pardon Mohamed Ali, too.
    Nobody but Dennison knows what the pardon will be for.
    Ali had his conviction for draft evasion overturned by the SCOTUS.
    And Carter granted blanket amnesty for all draft evaders in 1977.
    If it weren’t for his supporters, I wouldn’t think it would be possible to be dumber than Donnie Dennison, the Comb-Over King.

  5. Kathy says:

    @An Interested Party:

    Five Thirty Right has a piece on that out today.

    My headline would have been “The Cheeto Might Be More Popular If He Were More Human.” But that’s just me.

  6. george says:

    The part I really don’t get is: when did kneeling become a sign of disrespect? As far as I know, its been a sign of respect in every culture. Don’t you even kneel before being knighted (or is that just in movies?). And you kneel before God in church.

  7. James Pearce says:

    You can rest assured that Trump will be bringing this up again, because he thinks it will energize his base, and he’s probably right about that.

    As Justin Wilson used to say, I gawr-on-tee it.

    The question at this point is do continue with this “Here’s a weapon; please stab me with it” stuff or do we go, “Well, that didn’t work. Let’s try this.”

  8. An Interested Party says:

    @Kathy: From your link…

    About half of American voters (49 percent)…says Trump is more responsible than former President Obama for the current state of the economy.

    Once all this tariff bull$hit causes the economy to crater, the Orange Blob will definitely be responsible for the state of the economy, but to think that he is more responsible for the positive state of the current economy? What a joke…

    The part I really don’t get is: when did kneeling become a sign of disrespect?

    There’s no outrage quite like manufactured outrage…

  9. wr says:

    @James Pearce: “The question at this point is do continue with this “Here’s a weapon; please stab me with it” stuff or do we go, “Well, that didn’t work. Let’s try this.”

    Unless you are actually an African-American football player, what do you mean “we”? I know your posts tend to assume that all actions by any Democrat are secretly controlled by some insider cabal, but what do you think “we” — that is, the vast majority of people who aren’t football players — are actually doing that we should stop?

  10. Lynn says:

    I’ve been practicing “taking a knee,” just in case. I can get down OK, but I may need a hand up.

  11. al Ameda says:

    Interesting … I’m not quite convinced that a majority does oppose Trump on this – perhaps what they actually disapprove of is his petulant and relentlessly negative approach here. Basically, the ‘Anthem Issue’ breaks along racial lines, and Trump’s base responds accordingly, most of these peaceful protesters are non-white.

    Which leads me to … The NFL is one of the reasons I enjoy the NBA now more than ever. The NFL is an owner and management dominated league, and it’s no accident that NFL players have the weakest player’s association in professional sports.

    The NBA is far more cosmopolitan. NBA players are front and center. The NBA is about 75% Black, and there is a fair share of players from other countries. Players have power, particularly star players. mid-management staff (coaches) are often fired because star players want the change. The NBA markets their stars. Ownership discusses most issues with players, and they’re collectively bargained, even Anthem comportment. Prominent NBA stars have openly disagreed with Trump on the Anthem Issue, and openly in direct words explaines why they will not visit this White House. It is quite a contrast with the attitude put forth by supplicant NFL ownership and management.

  12. Kathy says:


    The part I really don’t get is: when did kneeling become a sign of disrespect? As far as I know, its been a sign of respect in every culture. Don’t you even kneel before being knighted (or is that just in movies?). And you kneel before God in church.

    In some cultures, kneeling is not enough as a show of submission or respect. These require prostration, lying flat on the ground on one’s belly.

    But, yes, it is a ritual gesture of self-abasement before a “higher” person or power. It’s also used when pleading, but the meaning is the same.

  13. teve tory says:

    The part I really don’t get is: when did kneeling become a sign of disrespect?

    When black people started doing it.

  14. OzarkHillbilly says:

    So approximately half of Americans think sh!tting on the Constitution is A-OK so long as one smartly salutes the flag. Got is.

  15. KM says:

    @george :
    That’s why the gesture was chosen – it’s actually MORE respectful then a salute (hand over your heart) and standing at attention and was suggested so… well, so that people like Trump couldn’t do what they’re currently doing. They were originally just sitting. However, Kaepernick et al *completely* underestimated the Trumpian ability to duckspeak night into day. Because Trump is insisting there’s only One True Way to show patriotism to the flag, all other gestures are automatically Disrespectful AF no matter how honorable they really are.

  16. SKI says:

    @teve tory: This

  17. Jay L Gischer says:

    @James Pearce Of course Trump will try to play this to energize his base. And the Dems will use that to energize their base. We have the numbers on our side, in this issue.

    It’s one thing to run away when your poll numbers are bad, but they aren’t on this issue. And it’s wonderful when the right thing and the polls line up. We (the Dems) should be leaning into this one, not running away from it. We should be saying things like “taking a knee isn’t disrespectful, it’s more respectful”. And also, “Black Americans and black players don’t hate America, they just hate that America often acts like it hates them. And so do I.”

    You have to understand that they are going to squeal like stuck pigs if you do this. But that’s good. It means you hurt them. We Dems need to be ready for a knockdown brawl, because that’s what this election is going to be.

    The stakes could not be higher. Today Trump announced that he (unilaterally) announced that he thought Russia should be allowed back into the (now) G-7. Regardless of why you think this is so, it is readily apparent that he could not realistically be doing more on Putin’s behalf.

  18. James Pearce says:

    @Jay L Gischer:

    We (the Dems) should be leaning into this one, not running away from it.

    I disagree. The risk-reward calculus is off. What do we risk? Pissing off half the country and pushing them into the arms of a troll like Trump. We know that already.

    But what’s our reward?

  19. george says:

    @teve tory:

    When black people started doing it.

    Ever been to a black church? Kneeling is very common, and I suspect has been for centuries. Basically, I think Trump just invented the objection on the spot.

  20. george says:


    That makes a lot of sense; kneeling is basically a very respectful action.

    I suspect Trump personally doesn’t care at all (being respectful about the flag or anthem almost certainly means nothing to him). He’s an opportunist, and he saw an opportunity to make a big deal about a very respectful way to bring attention to a very real problem.

    American cops have kill over one thousand people every year, about half of them black. Meanwhile, Canada kills about 20 (or 1/5th per capita), Germany kills about 10 (about 1/20th per capita), Japan and the UK none or one. Yes, very disrespectful to bring attention to that by kneeling.