NFL TV Ratings Down; Fans Cite a Host of Factors, Led by National Anthem Protests

Seven Possible Reasons for Flagging NFL Ratings Resonate with the Public

South Orange, NJ, October 27, 2016 — Viewership for NFL games is down approximately 12% this season, sending league and club officials in search of reasons. A Seton Hall Sports Poll conducted this week asked people to identify factors accounting for the drop.

Each question was asked separately, allowing for a yes, no or don’t know response.   Thus, respondents could weigh in on each of the seven possibilities as a contributing factor without identifying one single factor.

The leading factor – the one receiving the most “yesses” – was players not standing for the national anthem. However, the seven factors all evoked a large number of yes responses, so that even the least chosen, at 33%, represents a lot of fans.

56% of respondents cited players not standing for the anthem, with 50% citing the distraction of the presidential campaign and 47% the controversy over the handling of domestic violence cases involving players.

On the question of domestic violence, men and women responded equally; 47% of men cited that as a possible reason, 46% of women said yes to that possibility.

Other factors included games on too many days, over-saturating the market (44%), increased interest in post-season baseball (39%), the ongoing controversy over head injuries (33%) and a decline in quality of play on the field (33%).

A total of 841 adults across the US (on landlines and cellphones) participated in the poll, which has a margin of error of +/- 3.4%. The poll was conducted October 24-26.

“Only a third cited quality of play and head injuries,” said Rick Gentile, director of the Poll, which is sponsored by The Sharkey Institute. “Perhaps the league can take some solace in that, although a third is still a lot of people. But it is somewhat remarkable that the impact of the national anthem protest seems to hold, given that the action occurs pre-game and isn’t even televised.”

Rick Gentile will be interviewed by Seth Everett for a podcast on the poll’s findings.


About the poll:

This poll was conducted by telephone October 24-26 among 841 adults in the United States. The Seton Hall Sports Poll is conducted by the Sharkey Institute.

Phone numbers were dialed from samples of both standard landline and cell phones. The error due to sampling for results based on the entire sample could be plus or minus 3.4 percentage points. The error for subgroups may be higher. This poll release conforms to the Standards of Disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

The Seton Hall Sports Poll has been conducted regularly since 2006.

Media: Media: Marty Appel Public Relations,
or Michael Ricciardelli, Associate Director of Media Relations, Seton Hall University,


One of the country’s leading Catholic universities, Seton Hall University has been a catalyst for leadership — developing students in mind, heart and spirit — since 1856. Home to nearly 10,000 undergraduate and graduate students and offering more than 90 academic programs, Seton Hall’s academic excellence has been singled out for distinction by The Princeton Review, U.S.News & World Report and Bloomberg Businessweek.

Seton Hall, which embraces students of all religions, prepares its graduates to be exemplary servant leaders and global citizens. Its attractive main campus is located in suburban South Orange, New Jersey, and is only 14 miles by train, bus or car from New York City, offering a wealth of employment, internship, cultural and entertainment opportunities. The university’s nationally recognized School of Law is prominently located in downtown Newark.

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