Most NFL Fans Say Vick Shouldn't Be Allowed to Play Again

by Jeffrey M. Jones

Most fans favor a short prison sentence for Vick

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ -- A new Gallup Panel survey finds that most pro football fans do not believe that Michael Vick should be allowed to play in the National Football League again. Even fewer would like to see their favorite team make an attempt to acquire Vick once he has served his punishment. The vast majority of fans believe Vick should receive prison time for his involvement in dog fighting, although most favor a short prison term over a long term.

The poll was conducted Thursday through Sunday, Aug. 23-26, 2007. Vick formally entered his plea in court and publicly addressed the matter on August 27, but it was widely reported that he would agree to plead guilty in the case prior to the poll's field period. The NFL suspended Vick indefinitely on Thursday.

According to the poll, the vast majority of fans believe Vick should go to prison for his involvement in dog fighting, but more favor a "short prison sentence" (51%) than a "long prison sentence" (35%). Just 12% of fans believe Vick should not serve any prison time at all.

These attitudes vary by attention paid to the story. Nearly half of football fans who report following the story very closely say Vick should get a long prison sentence (45%), slightly more than the 42% who say he should only get a short sentence. Those who are paying less attention to the story favor a shorter prison sentence for Vick.

Vick's fate in terms of prison time will be known Dec. 10 when he is sentenced. His future in the NFL is less clear. But most football fans, 58%, believe Vick should not be allowed to return to the NFL, while 40% think he should. Those following the story more and less closely view this matter similarly.

Fans are even less inclined to want Vick to return in the uniform of their favorite team. Just 22% of football fans say they would "want their favorite NFL team to attempt to sign or trade for Vick after he completes his prison term" -- roughly half the percentage that thinks Vick should be allowed to play again. Seventy-five percent of all football fans would not want Vick to play for the team they root for. Again, these views do not differ much by the amount of attention football fans are paying to the Vick story.

It is clear that the case that has captured the attention of the sport's fan base -- 41% of pro football fans say they are following the news about Vick very closely, and another 46% are following it somewhat closely.

Views of Pro Athletes

The Vick case is the most prominent example in an increasingly long line of problematic behavior exhibited by some NFL players. Besides Vick, several other players have been suspended by the league for getting into trouble with the law. It is unclear how much of an impact the Vick case has had on Americans' views of football players more generally, but the poll finds that football players' public image ranks no better than the middle of the pack compared with the athletes in other major sports.

Forty-four percent of Americans say they have a positive view of professional football players, about the same as say this of pro baseball players (49%). Americans give higher positive ratings to pro golfers (60%) and pro tennis players (52%), and are less likely to rate pro hockey players (34%) and pro basketball players (33%) positively. However, the 33% who rate pro football players negatively equals that of pro basketball as the worst among the six sports tested in the poll, and football's net rating (% positive minus % negative) of +11 is only better than that of basketball (net score of 0).

These ratings do not vary much by demographic subgroup, with the exception of whites' and nonwhites' ratings of pro basketball players. According to the poll data, 50% of nonwhites but only 28% of whites have a positive view of pro basketball players. There are only minor (if any) differences in ratings of the other sports by race.

Survey Methods

Results for this Gallup Panel study are based on telephone interviews with 1,001 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted Aug. 23-26, 2007. Gallup panel members are recruited through random selection methods. The panel is weighted so that it is demographically representative of the U.S. adult population. For results based on these samples, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

29. Please say whether your overall view of the athletes who play each of the following sports is very positive, somewhat positive, neutral, somewhat negative, or very negative. How about -- [random order]?

 

2007 Aug 23-26 (sorted by "net positive")

Very positive

Some-what positive

Neutral

Some-what negative

Very negative

No opinion

Net positive

 

%

%

%

%

%

%

 

Professional golf

31

29

28

5

3

3

+52

Professional tennis

19

33

35

5

3

4

+44

Professional baseball

16

33

27

19

5

2

+25

Professional hockey

11

23

40

13

5

6

+16

Professional football

14

30

22

24

9

1

+11

Professional basketball

9

24

30

22

11

2

0

30. PROFESSIONAL FOOTBALL FAN DEMOGRAPHIC -- FOR SCREENING PURPOSES ONLY. ALL THE FOLLOWING TABLES ARE BASED ON 520 PROFESSIONAL FOOTBALL FANS.

31 . (Asked of professional football fans) How closely are you following the news about the investigation into Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick's involvement in illegal dog fighting -- very closely, somewhat closely, not too closely, or not at all?

 

 

Very closely

Somewhat closely

Not too closely

Not at all

No opinion

           

2007 Aug 23-26

41%

46

10

3

--

32. (Asked of professional football fans) From what you know about the case, do you think Michael Vick's punishment should include -- [ROTATED: a long prison sentence, a short prison sentence, or no prison time at all]?

 

 

Long prison sentence

Short prison sentence

No prison time at all

No opinion

         

2007 Aug 23-26

35%

51

12

2

33. (Asked of professional football fans) Do you think Michael Vick should -- or should not -- be allowed to play in the National Football League again?

 

 

Yes, should

No, should not

No opinion

       

2007 Aug 23-26

40%

58

2

34. (Asked of professional football fans) Would you, personally, want your favorite NFL team to attempt to sign or trade for Michael Vick after he completes his prison term, or not?

 

 

Yes, would

No, would not

No opinion

       

2007 Aug 23-26

22%

75

4

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