They still love football in Texas, perhaps as much as any place on the planet.
But they may not love it in quite the same way as they used to.
According to a University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll, nearly half of the state’s registered voters have an unfavorable opinion of the NFL in particular.
The NFL drew an unfavorable opinion from 47 percent of voters (including 28 percent who went all the way to “very unfavorable”), while 27 percent had a favorable opinion of the league. The survey included 1,200 registered voters and was conducted from June 8-17, and has a margin of error of less than 3 percent.
The report cites a number of possible reasons for the dip, but hones in on the national anthem issue, which the league has tried to fix with a half-measure that didn’t pacify President Donald Trump or his loudest supporters.
“Trump made this an issue,” said University of Texas government professor Daron Shaw, co-director of the poll. “He understood that making this about the national anthem was good politically. It’s very clear it has hurt the NFL, and that it’s polarized politically and polarized racially.”
The most positive opinions of the NFL were from black voters, who registered a 49 percent favorable and 24 percent unfavorable rating for the league. Hispanic voters went 29 percent favorable and 39 percent unfavorable, while white voters went 20 percent favorable and 55 percent unfavorable.
Perhaps as concerning for Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and Texans owner Bob McNair and the league in general is that 27 percent of all respondents had no opinion whatsoever.
“If football was trumping controversy, these numbers would be much more positive than they are,” said Jim Henson, head of the Texas Politics Project at UT-Austin. “And they would not show the demographic patterns that are clearly evident here.”
The numbers certainly explain Jones’ overt concern and wish to make the issue go away, but as long as someone believes it’s a political winner, there’s little chance he’ll let it go anytime soon.