Political party makes a difference in who is watching the NFL, according to ratings

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Friday, October 16, 2020
More Republican viewers tuning out of NFL
Around this time every four years, it seems like politics and football are conveniently clashing against each other. In if the numbers shown in the video are any indication, the NFL is drawing its audience along party lines.

Through the first three games of the 2020 NFL season, Republican voters are noticeably absent, according to data from ratings firm Comscore.

NFL ratings are down across the board slightly, but when the company broke down households by political affiliation, Republicans emerged as a sports hold-out.

In the first three weeks of the season, the ratings in Republican households dropped 11%, 17% and 8%.

In Democrat households, views were up 1% in week one, down 4% in week two and up 1% in week three.

"These significant viewership changes reinforce the importance of having advanced audience information because media buyers and sellers have to adapt quickly when cultural forces reshape consumer behavior," said Comscore Chief Revenue Officer Carol Hinnant in a news release.

The ratings data align with a recent CBS News/YouGov poll that shows 77% of Republicans said that kneeling during the national anthem of an NFL game is unacceptable. Just 12% of Democrats feel the same way.

Democrats were the only voting group to keep ratings relatively flat. Ratings among independent voters dropped an average of 5%, and ratings among unregistered voters dropped 6%.

Despite the early declines, week five of the NFL season saw three games top the list of television shows watched - Fox's coverage of Tampa Bay at Chicago (15 million viewers), NBC's coverage of Minnesota at Seattle (15 million viewers) and CBS' coverage of New England at Kansas City (14.7 million viewers).

Collectively, the news networks CNN, Fox News Channel and MSNBC averaged just under 10 million viewers in prime time last week, or 72% more than the same week in 2019, the Nielsen company said.

At a time most networks are grateful not to lose too many viewers year-to-year, Fox News' average of 4.42 million last week was up 63%, MSNBC's 2.75 million was up 38% and CNN's 2.59 million represented an eye-popping 172% increase.

Gravity usually has a way of dealing with what goes up, but there's also concern about what will happen to the news networks when the election is over. That's especially the case if the more conventional candidate, Democrat Joe Biden, beats President Donald Trump.

The vice presidential debate between Mike Pence and Kamala Harris dominated the news last week with the most people watching it on Fox News.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.