Americans think the Patriots cheated in the AFC Championship game- and they're rooting for the Seahawks on Sunday- but in some ways their poll numbers haven't fallen that far because the Patriots weren't all that popular to begin with.
Overall 41% of voters think the Patriots cheated last week to only 27% who think they didn't, and among self described NFL fans- still 64% of voters even after this tumultuous season- it's a 50/28 spread that think the Pats cheated. Democrats (46/23) overwhelmingly think New England cheated while Republicans (36/33) are much more divided on the matter. Bill Belichick has a 28/41 favorability rating among NFL fans, compared to 37/16 for Pete Carroll. And the Patriots as a team overall have a 36/43 favorability rating with fans, making them one of only two teams we tested (the Cowboys at 40/42 being the other) with a net negative rating.
Yet for all that it's not clear that the Patriots have really fallen that far on the field of public opinion for the simple reason that the franchise wasn't very popular to start with. Americans say they're rooting for the Seahawks to win the Super Bowl by a 7 point margin, 36/29. The Patriots were actually cheered against by a wider spread when they last made the Super Bowl in 2012 and we found Americans pulling for the Giants 37/27. Tom Brady's favorability rating, at 37/25, is little changed from our annual NFL poll last year when it was 39/23.
The Patriots still can't keep up with the Cowboys when it comes to being America's most hated team. The Cowboys continue to win that 'honor' with 18% to 13% for the Patriots, and 9% each for the Bears, Giants, and Steelers. The Pats were already third on that front last year. (There is a partisan divide in attitudes toward the Cowboys- Republicans see them favorably 38/33, while Democrats have a negative opinion of them 32/35).
Bottom line: Americans don't care much for the Patriots. But that was already true.
Other notes from our NFL poll:
-The Packers remain the most popular team in the country. They have a +36 net favorability rating with 54% of Americans viewing them favorably to 18% with a negative opinion. The only other teams above +20 are the Seahawks (+25 at 45/20) and the Broncos (+24 at 44/20). The Packers also win out when voters are asked to name their single favorite team- 15% pick the Packers to 13% for the Cowboys, 10% for the Seahawks, and 9% each for the Broncos, Patriots, and Steelers.
-NFL fans are not all that big on the London experiment. Just 20% think a team should be placed overseas, to 59% who disapprove of the idea. On the other hand fans are ready for the league to return to Los Angeles- 51% think it should get one to 22% who disagree.
-Katy Perry as Sunday's halftime act gets generally positive reviews- Americans give Perry a 37/20 favorability rating, and by a 37/23 spread say she's a good choice for the halftime show. Unlike some celebrities who can be pretty politically polarizing, Democrats (38/17) and Republicans (37/21) give Perry similarly positive numbers. The other Perry tested in our poll, Rick Perry, has a 29/41 favorability rating.
Full results here