Professional NFL Referees Back On the Field Just in Time Four in five football followers say game quality so far this year has been worse than last year

NEW YORK, Sept. 28, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- After a referees' union lockout spanning the pre-season and the first three weeks of the regular National Football League (NFL) season, football fields across the country will welcome back the professional referees and say good-bye to their much-maligned replacements this weekend.  And, this may come just in time:  when asked how they think the quality of the games has been since the beginning of the season with the replacement referees, when compared to the quality of the games last year, four in five of those who follow professional football say the quality has been worse (80%), with two in five (40%) saying they have been a lot worse.  Only 5% say the quality has been better, and 15% say the quality is no different from last year.

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These are some of the results of The Harris Poll of 2,475 adults surveyed online between September 25 and 27, 2012 by Harris Interactive.

When it comes to who is to blame for the dispute, there is plenty to go around.  Almost three in ten of those who follow professional football (28%) say the NFL is most to blame, while 14% say the referees' union is most to blame.  However, almost half (45%) say the two are equally to blame.  Younger American football followers, those 18-34, are more likely to blame the NFL in this dispute than those 45 and older (34% vs. 25%).

There is almost always a group that is most impacted when there is a sports lock-out, and in this case roughly three in five football followers (58%) say it is the game itself that has been hurt the most by the labor dispute; one in five (21%) say it is the fans who have been hurt the most, 15% say it is the players, and 5% say the referees.  Two-thirds of football followers 55 and older (66%) and 63% of those 45-54 say the game has been hurt most, compared to half of those 35-44 (50%) and 18-34 (52%).

Who follows football?

Even with the lock-out and the use of replacement referees, football remains popular and even shows a rise in interest since last year.  In 2011, over half of Americans (55%) said they followed professional football - a slight increase from 2010, when 53% said so.  This year, that number rises further, with 59% of Americans saying they follow professional football; this is the highest percentage to indicate this since The Harris Poll first started asking the question in 1992.

As might be expected, men are more likely than women to follow football (72% versus 48%).  Over three in five of those 45-54 (65%) and those 35-44 (63%) say they follow professional football, compared to 57% each of those 18-34 and 55 or older.  There are also regional differences, with over three in five Northeasterners (61%) and Midwesterners (62%) saying they follow professional football, compared to 58% of Southerners and 56% of Westerners.

So What?

A fall Sunday afternoon would not be the same for a majority of Americans without football on television.  Although the games have still been played, there has thus far been a constant drumbeat of criticism regarding the quality of these games.  The NFL and the referees' union were able to resolve their dispute three weeks into the season.  The question now is whether there will be any lasting damage to the game, or whether the fans will just be happy to have things back the way they were.  At the end of the season, will rankings be impacted by the bad calls?  Will home field advantage be changed by a decision?  Also, fantasy football is a large and growing business that could be impacted as well. Time will tell if these three weeks really mattered.  

TABLE 1
WHO FOLLOWS PROFESSIONAL FOOTBALL
"Do you follow professional football?"
Summary of Yes Responses

                                           Base: All adults


Total

%

2012

59

2011

55

2010

53

2009

51

2008

52

2007

49

2006

48

2005

49

2004

51

2003

50

2002

47

1999

53

1998

55

1997

51

1996

52

1995

49

1993

46

1992

49


 

TABLE 2
WHO FOLLOWS PROFESSIONAL FOOTBALL – BY DEMOGRAPHIC GROUP (2012)
"Do you follow professional football?"
Summary of Yes Responses

             Base: All adults


Total

%

All Adults

59

Sex

         Male

72

         Female

48

Age

18-34

57

35-44

63

45-54

65

55+

57

Region

Northeast

61

Midwest

62

South

58

West

56

Annual Household Income

          Less than $35,000

51

         $35,000-$49,999

55

         $50,000-$74,999

60

$75,000+

69

 

TABLE 3
BLAME FOR NFL REFEREE DISPUTE
"As you may be aware, there is a labor dispute between the National Football League (NFL) and the NFL Referees' Union which has led to the use of replacement referees in regular season NFL games. In this dispute, who do you think is most to blame?"

Base: Adults who follow professional football


Total

Age

18-34

35-44

45-54

55+

%

%

%

%

%

The NFL

28

34

27

25

25

They are equally to blame

45

38

48

49

48

The referees' union

14

12

14

16

14

Not at all sure

13

16

11

10

14

Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding

 

TABLE 4
QUALITY OF THE GAME
"Which of the following is closest to how you think the overall quality of the games have been since the beginning of the season with the replacement referees when compared to the quality of the games last year?"

   Base: Adults who follow professional football


Total


%


BETTER (NET)

5


  They have been a lot better

3


  They have been somewhat better

3


They are no different from last year

15


WORSE (NET)

80


  They have been somewhat worse

40


  They have been a lot worse

40


   Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding

 

TABLE 5
WHO IS HURT THE MOST
"Among the following, who do you think is being hurt the most by the labor dispute?"

             Base: Adults who follow professional football


Total

Age

18-34

35-44

45-54

55+

%

%

%

%

%

The game itself

58

52

50

63

66

The fans

21

21

33

18

18

The players

15

18

12

16

13

The referees

5

9

5

3

4

             Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding

 

Methodology

This Harris Poll was conducted online within the United States between September 25 to 27, 2012 among 2,475 adults (aged 18 and over), of whom 1,466 follow professional football. Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents' propensity to be online.

All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to multiple sources of error which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments. Therefore, Harris Interactive avoids the words "margin of error" as they are misleading. All that can be calculated are different possible sampling errors with different probabilities for pure, unweighted, random samples with 100% response rates. These are only theoretical because no published polls come close to this ideal.

Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Harris Interactive surveys. The data have been weighted to reflect the composition of the adult population. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in the Harris Interactive panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

These statements conform to the principles of disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

The results of this Harris Poll may not be used in advertising, marketing or promotion without the prior written permission of Harris Interactive.

The Harris Poll® #58, September 28, 2012
By Regina Corso, SVP, Harris Poll and Public Relations, Harris Interactive

About Harris Interactive

Harris Interactive is one of the world's leading market research firms, leveraging research, technology, and business acumen to transform relevant insight into actionable foresight. Known widely for the Harris Poll® and for pioneering innovative research methodologies, Harris offers proprietary solutions in the areas of market and customer insight, corporate brand and reputation strategy, and marketing, advertising, public relations and communications research. Harris possesses expertise in a wide range of industries including health care, technology, public affairs, energy, telecommunications, financial services, insurance, media, retail, restaurant, and consumer package goods. Additionally, Harris has a portfolio of multi-client offerings that complement our custom solutions while maximizing our client's research investment. Serving clients in more than 196 countries and territories through our North American and European offices, Harris specializes in delivering research solutions that help us - and our clients—stay ahead of what's next. For more information, please visit www.harrisinteractive.com.

Press Contact:
Corporate Communications
Harris Interactive
212-539-9600
press@harrisinteractive.com

 

SOURCE Harris Interactive



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