The Oneida Indian Nation, the group spearheading the Redskins’ name change effort, has released results from a poll of 500 Washington D.C. area adults showing 59% of respondents say American Indians would have a right to feel offended if called “redskin.” However, a glaring omission from the poll is whether the respondents felt the usage of “Redskin” in a team name is offensive.
In addition, 55% of respondents reported their level of support for the Washington Redskins would not change if the team changed their name, while 25% said a name change would negatively affect their level of support and 18% said a name change would increase their level of support.
Recent public pressure on the NFL and the Washington Redskins to change the team name has resulted in the NFL setting up a meeting with representatives from the Oneida Indian Nation to discuss the issue. The Redskins’ owner, Dan Snyder, has been invited to the meeting, but has yet to respond to the invitation. The overwhelming majority of respondents to the Oneida poll, 77%, said that Snyder should attend the meeting. The poll, conducted by SurveyUSA, has a margin of error of 4.4%.
The results of this recent poll may indicate that the media’s full-court press on the issue is having an effect on public opinion. Many highly visible members of the media, ranging from Bob Costas to Charles Krauthammer, have come out in support of the Redskins changing their name. Even President Barack Obama weighed in on the issue, in the midst of a government shutdown, to say he would consider changing the name.
However, the use of a public opinion poll to support their position on the name change issue seems to contradict the argument that the Oneida Indian Nation and supporters of the name change have consistently made when confronted with public opinion polls with opposite results. Supporters of the name change effort have repeatedly claimed that public opinion on the issue is irrelevant and that this is an issue that should not be left up to the public to decide. This was their response when an Associated Press poll revealed 79% of Americans feel the name shouldn’t be changed.
Even worse for the name change effort was a 2004 poll conducted by the University of Pennsylvania’s National Annenberg Election Survey that revealed 90% of Native Americans were not bothered by the name. Supporters of the name change effort have challenged the validity of that poll, but have voiced no concern over the lack of a direct question on how the respondents felt about the use of “Redskin” in a team name in the poll results released on Wednesday.
There are no immediate plans to change the Washington Redskins’ name, but pressure is mounting on both the NFL and Redskins’ owner Dan Snyder to do so. Recent statements made by Roger Goodell, who initially defended the Redskins’ name, saying “if one person is offended, we have to listen” only serve to further demonstrate the effect the President and the media have had on the tone of the debate.