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Public Says LIV Has Diminished PGA and Pro Golf; By More than 2 to 1 Margin, Say LIV Is Saudi ‘Sportswashing’  

men golfing outsideThe defection of many top golfers to the new LIV tour, along with their subsequent ban from PGA tournaments, has the American public thinking that both the PGA tour and professional golf in general have been diminished.

Asked if the tour has been diminished, 43 percent of sports fans said yes, vs. 29 percent saying no. Avid fans said yes by 50-28 percent. The general population said yes by 38-23 percent.

Now that some of the top golfers are playing in separate leagues with no chance to play against each other except for the four Majors, is the PGA Tour diminished?
N=1,579 General Population Sports Fan* Non Fan Avid Fan Casual Fan
Yes 38% 43% 32% 50% 40%
No 23% 29% 15% 28% 29%
Don't know/No opinion 39% 28% 53% 22% 31%

Sports Fan = Avid + Casual Fans*

Asked if professional golf itself has been diminished, similar margins arose. Sports fans said yes by 41-30 percent, avid fans said yes by 47-31 percent, and the general population said yes by 36-25 percent. 

Is the sport of professional golf diminished now that the players are split, across incompatible leagues?
N=1,579 General Population Sports Fan* Non Fan Avid Fan Casual Fan
Yes 36% 41% 29% 47% 39%
No 25% 30% 18% 31% 29%
Don't know/No opinion 39% 29% 53% 22% 32%

Sports Fan = Avid + Casual Fans*

These were among the findings of a Seton Hall Sports Poll conducted last month among 1,579 adults across the country. The poll, featured a national representative sample weighted on U.S. Census Bureau figures for gender, age, ethnicity, education, income and geography and has a margin of error of +/- 2.5 percent.

Although there seems to be a consensus that LIV Golf has diminished both the PGA Tour and the sport itself, the public seems by and large not to “hold it against” the LIV defectors. Of those surveyed, 43 percent of sports fans (45 percent of avid fans and 40 percent of the general population) said their opinion of those golfers has not changed with only 21, 19 and 18 percent (same order), saying their impressions of those golfers has diminished.

Now that these golfers have left the PGA Tour to join LIV Golf, how does this impact your impression of these golfers? My impression of the LIV golfers…

N=1,579 General Population Sports Fan* Non Fan Avid Fan Casual Fan
Has improved 7% 11% 2% 20% 8%
Has not changed 40% 43% 36% 45% 42%
Has diminished  18% 21% 13% 19% 22%
Don’t know/No opinion 35% 25% 49% 16% 28%

Sports Fan = Avid + Casual Fans*

Would You Leave Your Job for One that Paid More but with an Unethical Company?
Respondents were asked whether they themselves would leave a job for a better-paying one that operated unethically. Sixty-one percent of the general population, 59 percent of sports fans and 52 percent of avid fans would not leave their current job if offered such an opportunity.

If you were offered more money to do the same job but with a different company, however, the new company operated unethically but not illegally, would you take the job? 

N=1,579 General Population Sports Fan* Non Fan Avid Fan Casual Fan
Yes 20% 26% 14% 34% 22%
No 61% 59% 62% 52% 62%
Don’t know/No opinion 19% 15% 24% 14% 16%

Sports Fan = Avid + Casual Fans*

Don’t Blame Players
Having said that, approximately half of those polled said they did not blame the players for leaving the PGA. (General population 51 percent, sports fans 48 percent, avid fans 46 percent).

In 2022, a new professional golf league called LIV Golf was created by the sovereign wealth fund of Saudi Arabia. Over 30 players, including a number of top players left the PGA Tour to play in the new golf league. Golfers were guaranteed considerably more money to play for LIV Golf than they could have earned on the PGA Tour. Do you blame the players for leaving the PGA if they were offered significantly higher earnings?

N=1,579 General Population Sports Fan* Non Fan Avid Fan Casual Fan
Yes 24% 32% 14% 39% 29%
No 51% 48% 54% 46% 49%
Don’t know/No opinion 25% 20% 32% 15% 22%

Sports Fan = Avid + Casual Fans*

“There seems to be an understanding among the public that the golfers that quote unquote defected from the PGA were making personal monetary decisions that benefited them and their families – even if those members of the public might not have done the same,” said Seton Hall Marketing Professor Daniel Ladik, who is chief methodologist for the poll. “But, we’ll have to wait and see how, and if, that translates to their commercial sponsorship deals.” 

And Then There Is Sportswashing
The term “sportswashing” has emerged as a term for a nation attempting to enhance its image using sports. Saudi Arabia has been accused of doing so in creating the LIV Tour.  Poll respondents saw LIV as just that – sportswashing – by a 43 to 19 percent margin among the general population, 49 to 21 percent among sports fans and 52 to 23 percent of avid fans.

The Saudi Arabian government has been accused of numerous human rights violations. Many journalists feel that the LIV Golf league is “sportswashing,” meaning using sports as a means to enhance its image around the world. Does LIV Golf look like “sportswashing” to you? 

N=1,579 General Population Sports Fan* Non Fan Avid Fan Casual Fan
Yes 43% 49% 36% 52% 49%
No 19% 21% 17% 23% 19%
Don’t know/No opinion 38% 30% 47% 25% 32%

Sports Fan = Avid + Casual Fans*

“Never underestimate the power of sport on the world stage,” said Professor Charles Grantham, Director of the Center for Sport Management within Seton Hall’s Stillman School of Business, which sponsors the Poll. “As apartheid collapsed, I was asked by Nelson Mandela to come to South Africa along with then Commissioner David Stern and a delegation of NBA players to help ‘restore hope’ and serve as an inspiration to South Africa’s youth. We gave clinics, met with African National Congress representatives and sports officials about using sports as a change agent," said Grantham, former Executive Director of the National Basketball Players Association. “I’m told it helped, and later, President Mandela stepped it up another notch as he unified his country through its rugby team, and the mantra ‘One Team, One Country.’ The movie Invictus does a good job of showing what that meant to the people of South Africa.” He concluded, “But the power of sport isn’t just confined to democratization and unity – and to think LIV is nothing more than golf to the Saudis is nothing more than naïve.” 

Is the PGA Ban OK? 
People were generally supportive of the PGA banning LIV defectors from the PGA Tour, with 47 percent of sports fans, 51 percent of avid fans and 38 percent of the general population agreeing with the PGA decision, vs. 29, 30 and 28 percent (same order) disagreeing.

The PGA in turn has excluded anyone who plays in LIV tournaments from playing in PGA sanctioned tournaments. Is this a fair decision by the Commissioner of the PGA?

N=1,579 General Population Sports Fan* Non Fan Avid Fan Casual Fan
Yes 38% 47% 27% 51% 46%
No 28% 29% 26% 30% 28%
Don’t know/No opinion 34% 24% 47% 19% 26%

Sports Fan = Avid + Casual Fans*

An online version of this story with more charted questions is available here

ABOUT THE POLL
The Seton Hall Sports Poll, conducted regularly since 2006, is performed by the Sharkey Institute within the Stillman School of Business. This poll was conducted online by YouGov Plc. using a national representative sample weighted according to gender, age, ethnicity, education, income and geography, based on U.S. Census Bureau figures. Respondents were selected from YouGov’s opt-in panel to be representative of all U.S residents. This poll release conforms to the Standards of Disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls. The Seton Hall Sports Poll has been chosen for inclusion in iPoll by Cornell’s Roper Center for Public Opinion Research and its findings have been published everywhere from USA Today, ESPN, The New York Times, Washington Post, AP, and Reuters to CNBC, NPR, Yahoo Finance, Fox News and many points in between. 

Media:  Michael Ricciardelli, Associate Director of Media Relations, Seton Hall University, michael.ricciardelli@shu.edu, 908-447-3034; Marty Appel, AppelPR@gmail.com

Categories: Athletics , Research

For more information, please contact:

  • Michael Ricciardelli
  • (908) 447-3034
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