A majority of Americans, by a 58% to 35% margin, believe NFL players who kneel during the National Anthem in protest are "not unpatriotic," according to a new Quinnipiac University poll released Thursday.
By a 53-to-43% margin, Americans say professional athletes have the right to protest on the playing field, though 51% of voters said they support the NFL's new policy requiring players to stand.
The poll also found that there was a partisan split, with 70% of Republican voters saying taking a knee was unpatriotic, while only 11% of Democratic voters agreed.
Thursday's poll was conducted from May 31 to June 5, partially after President Donald Trump announced that he was canceling a planned White House visit by the Super Bowl champions Philadelphia Eagles. He initially cited the anthem protests as the reason for the cancellation, though the White House later acknowledged that a low expected turnout was a major factor in the decision.
Trump has seized on the anthem controversy, which was sparked by mostly black athletes protesting police brutality against people of color, to energize his political base. Overall, 61% of voters said they do not approve of Trump's handling of race relations, the poll found.
"Voters are clearly torn on the National Anthem issue. They seem to be saying, 'You can still love your country and kneel during its Anthem,' but the NFL's new 'must stand' mandate is fine with them, too," said Tim Malloy, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll, according to a news release from Quinnipiac.
The poll surveyed 1,223 voters nationwide via landline and cell phone interviews. The margin of error is +/- 3.4 percentage points.