Democrats, Republicans divide over NFL protests, Trump comments - poll

Last Updated Sep 29, 2017 7:16 AM EDT

By Jennifer De Pinto, Fred Backus, Kabir Khanna and Anthony Salvanto

Americans like neither the protests during the anthem, nor President Donald Trump's comments on the matter. Views hinge on partisanship, but also shift with how Americans view the intentions, not just the actions, of the players and president. Most Americans say that the players' intention is to try to call attention to racism. However, Republicans also feel the players are trying to disrespect the flag and the military, too – and strongly disapprove.

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More Americans also disapprove than approve of the president's comments on the matter, but this too depends on what they think he's trying to do. Republicans see him calling attention to an important issue, and approve of his approach; those who believe the president is intentionally trying to divide and distract the nation, disapprove.

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Democrats and independents believe the players are trying to protest what they see as unfair police tactics, racism, and to stick up for others in their communities, but not trying to disrespect the flag and anthem. Most Republicans feel the players are, in fact, trying to show that disrespect.

Overall, Democrats are approving of the protests, Republicans overwhelmingly disapprove. Independents mostly disapprove. There are differences by race -- African Americans are very likely to approve. Among whites, views run along partisan lines.

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Overall views of the president's comments about the players kneeling are also marked by partisan divisions. There are differences on race as African Americans are much more likely to disapprove.

At least seven in ten Americans feel the players are trying to draw attention to racism, and what they see as unfair police tactics. But most Republicans, and a third of Independents, feel in addition to that the players are trying to disrespect the military and veterans. Four in ten Americans overall think the players are trying to disrespect the flag and anthem itself.

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There is also disagreement over how the players, coaches and owners have responded to the president's comments.

Americans also divide on what President Trump is trying to do. Republicans generally feel he is trying to unite the country by telling everyone to respect the flag. Democrats feel he is trying to divide the country, singling out some groups for criticism.

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More Americans also feel President Trump is trying to distract the country from things in his Administration by bringing up the subject than trying to call attention to a matter he feels is important. But here, too the division is partisan.

Most Americans feel the players can use their positions and fame to raise issues, but more Republicans feel they should do so only on their own time, but one-quarter overall, and one-third of Republicans, say players should not do so at all.

There is wide agreement among Americans on many things that the national anthem and flag represent: almost everyone of all stripes feels the flag stands for traditions to be honored; for the military and veterans who've fought for the country; and also the right to free speech any time. But there is a bit more difference over whether the flag and anthem mean loyalty to the government. Six in ten Republicans feel it does. Democrats are less likely to say so.


This CBS News survey was conducted by YouGov using a nationally representative sample of 1,335 U.S. residents interviewed online between September 26-28, 2017. The final sample included an oversample of 241 African Americans and was weighted according to gender, age, race, education, and region based on the American Community Survey, conducted by the U.S. Bureau of the Census, as well as 2012 and 2016 Presidential vote. Respondents were selected from YouGov's opt-in panel to be representative of all U.S residents. The weights range from 0.008 to 6.09, with a mean of 1 and a standard deviation of 0.99. The margin of error (a 95% confidence interval) is approximately 3.8% This is a measure of sampling error (the average of all estimates obtained using the same sample selection and weighting procedures repeatedly). The sample estimate should differ from its expected value by less than margin of error in 95 percent of all samples. It does not reflect non-sampling errors, including potential selection bias in panel participation or in response to a particular survey.