Poll: Wealthy, College-Educated Less Likely to Want Kids to Play Football

December 10, 2014

Half of Americans say they wouldn’t want their sons to play football, and only 17 percent believe it will grow in popularity in the next two decades, a new Bloomberg Politics poll finds.

The poll also reveals divisions based on education, money, gender, age, and politics. In all, 62 percent of college-educated respondents said they don’t want their children playing football, and neither do 62 percent of those making $100,000 or more a year. Nearly a third of those earning $100,000 or more expect football to lose followers over the next two decades.

Football isn’t going anywhere. The sport remains the most highly rated programming on television, but the poll raises questions about the pipeline of tomorrow’s football players: Will they come from less affluent and educated families? Will there be fewer players overall?

FRONTLINE’s League of Denial investigated the dangers of concussions from the sport, including for young players. One researcher interviewed in the film, Dr. Ann McKee, has found that even high school-aged players — and not just well-paid pros — can suffer from chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, a degenerative brain disease linked to depression, loss of impulse control, memory loss and even dementia. A 2013 study found that high school players were nearly twice as likely as college players to suffer a concussion.

Pop Warner leagues — which produce the majority of NFL players — issued new rules in 2012 intended to protect young players from head injuries. The changes came at the end of a two-year period that saw Pop Warner participation fall by 9.5 percent. Asked why, the organization’s top medical officer, Julian Bailes, cited concerns about head injuries as “the No. 1 cause.”

Watch an excerpt from League of Denial (story continues below):

The Bloomberg poll also found a generational divide, with younger participants more inclined to let their children play the game. Fifty-six percent of those under age 35 said they would want their son to play, compared to 29 percent of those 65 or older.

Democrats were slightly more likely to oppose their children playing the game than Republicans — 52 percent to 47 — and 58 percent of women said they didn’t want their boys playing football, compared with 41 percent of men.

The poll found that 43 percent of Americans would still want their children to play, and that 7 percent were not sure. It was conducted from Dec. 3-5 by Selzer & Co. of Des Moines, Iowa, and included 1,001 U.S. adults. It had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.

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