Majority of Californians disagree with President Trump's handling of NFL protests

Californians remain deeply split over NFL players’ protests against racial inequality and police brutality during the national anthem at games, a new USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll has found.

More Californians seemed to oppose the protests than support them, and certain racial and partisan groups have fervent opposing beliefs about whether players should kneel while the anthem is playing, according to the poll. It found 38% opposed and 33% supported, just within the margin of error.

The online survey of 1,504 eligible voters in California was conducted from Oct. 27 through Nov. 6 and had a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

“There’s tremendous polarization over this not just in the country, but in California,” said Bob Shrum, director of the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics at USC. “Blacks feel very strongly about this. Republicans have taken the lead from Trump and they feel strongly about it. And overall, you have people very much divided.”

Black residents strongly favored the players’ protests while more than three-quarters of Republicans strongly opposed them, the poll found.

The protests began last year when then-San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick started kneeling during the national anthem as a campaign against social injustices. Other players have continued protesting this season while Kaepernick remains unsigned to any team.

President Trump elevated the issue in September during a political rally when he called on the NFL to fire any player who didn’t stand during the anthem, arguing the protests were offensive. The president has reiterated the point on Twitter, repeatedly telling NFL teams to force players to stand.

The poll found most Californians disagreed with how the president has approached the protests. Fifty-seven percent of those surveyed believed Trump has handled the issue wrongly, with just 18% in support.

I don’t think it helps the president and his side of the issue for him to weigh in the way he has,” Shrum said.

The poll results follow a similar split in the fall 2016 USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times survey of registered voters, which found 45% of Californians both supporting and opposing Kaepernick’s protest at the time.

In last year’s poll, more of those surveyed said the protests had furthered the dialogue about policing issues and race more than they than distracted from making progress on the matter, 45% to 37%.

Now, the results are muddier. This year’s poll found just 34% of Californians believed the protests are improving the debate over policing and race and 37% believed they’re distracting. Thirty percent now believe the protests neither improved nor distracted from the discussion.

liam.dillon@latimes.com

Twitter: @dillonliam

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