To no one’s surprise, Americans’ opinions on NFL player protests break down along simple lines: black and white.
According to an ESPN poll, 72 percent of African Americans either strongly approve or somewhat approve of the protests—which are targeted at police brutality and racial discrimination in the criminal-justice system and in America at large—while 16 percent strongly or somewhat disapprove. On the other hand, only 31 percent of white people strongly or somewhat approve, while 62 percent strongly or somewhat disapprove.
The ESPN survey, which was conducted by Global Strategy Group and comes with a margin of error of +/- 3 percent, also revealed that 40 percent of Americans (though only 31 percent of self-identified avid NFL fans) are less interested in the NFL due to the protests.
Though Americans are dissatisfied by the players’ protests, they are even more dissatisfied with Donald Trump’s criticisms of those protests. Per ESPN, 58 percent of respondents (and 64 percent of avid NFL fans) disapproved of the president’s comments.
Additionally, 49 percent of respondents said players had a right to protest, while 39 percent said they should be punished if they don’t stop.
There was one question on which everyone seemed to agree: 53 percent of respondents said Colin Kaepernick would still be in the NFL if not for his protest last fall, including 50 percent of white people, 67 percent of black people, 59 percent of Democrats and 51 percent of Republicans. Only 19 percent said he would not be in the NFL regardless, with 29 percent responding “unsure.”
ESPN’s headline on the story reporting this poll said that Americans are “divided” over the protests, which has been a common refrain from people who ask for “unity” and “togetherness.” And while the results of the survey do show that America is divided on this issue, it seems important to note that the division is not random or arbitrary or even necessarily political. It comes down to black people supporting a protest in the name of their rights, while white people oppose it.