With less than a week before the start of the 2018 NFL regular season, a new poll shows fewer people are closely following the NFL compared to just a few years ago.
The difference between now and then? Highly divisive national anthem demonstrations.
What did the poll find?
The Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll found that just 52 percent of registered voters are closely following the NFL this season, a 3 percent increase from January. However, the figure is down six points from 2014 when the same poll found that 58 percent of Americans closely follow the league.
To no surprise, the poll found that men older than 50 follow the NFL more closely than any other demographic. Unfortunately, that's also the demographic that is most likely to view national anthem demonstrations as not appropriate.
"It’s not going in the right direction," Democratic pollster Fred Yang told the Wall Street Journal.
Overall, 54 percent of respondents said the national anthem demonstrations are inappropriate while 43 percent said they are appropriate.
Independents and Republicans are most likely to view the protests negatively while black voters are most supportive of the protests, the poll found.
American sentiment corroborates the poll. Tommy Davis, a lifelong Dallas Cowboys fan, told the WSJ he stopped watching the NFL last year over the protests and doesn't plan to begin following the league anytime soon.
"I'm pretty much over it. I’m sticking with college football from here on out," he said.
The NFL regular season kicks off Thursday, Sept. 6, with a matchup between the Atlanta Falcons and the Philadelphia Eagles, this year's Super Bowl champions.