The public says LIV has undercut PGA and Pro Golf; By a margin of more than 2 to 1, say LIV is a Saudi “Sports Wash”

The defection of many top golfers to the new LIV Tour, along with their subsequent ban from PGA tournaments, has led the American public to think that both the PGA Tour and professional golf in general are in decline.

Asked if the tour has been reduced, 43 percent of sports fans said yes, compared to 29 percent who said no. Die-hard fans said yes by 50-28 percent. The general population said yes by 38-23 percent.

Now that some of the best golfers play in separate leagues with no chance to play against each other except for the four majors, has the PGA Tour declined?
N=1,579 Total population sports fan* Not a fan Avid fan Careless fan
Yes 38% 43% 32% 50% 40%
No 23% 29% 15% 28% 29%
I don’t know/I have no opinion 39% 28% 53% 22% 31%

Sports fans = avid + casual fans*

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

Is the sport of professional golf in decline now that players are separated into incompatible leagues?
N=1,579 Total population sports fan* Not a fan Avid fan Careless fan
Yes 36% 41% 29% 47% 39%
No 25% 30% 18% 31% 29%
I don’t know/I have no opinion 39% 29% 53% 22% 32%

Sports fans = avid + casual fans*

Those were among the findings of a Seton Hall Sports Poll survey conducted last month among 1,579 adults nationwide. The survey included a nationally representative sample weighted based on US Census Bureau data for sex, age, ethnicity, education, income and geography and has a margin of error of +/- 2.5 percent.

While there seems to be a consensus that LIV Golf has diminished both the PGA Tour and the sport itself, the public as a whole doesn’t seem 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) say their opinion of these golfers has not changed with only 21 percent, 19 percent, and 18 percent (in that order) saying their impressions of these, the number of golfers has decreased.

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

N=1,579 Total population sports fan* Not a fan Avid fan Careless fan
He has improved 7% 11% 2% 20% 8%
It hasn’t changed 40% 43% 36% 45% 42%
has decreased 18% 21% 13% 19% 22%
I don’t know/I have no opinion 35% 25% 49% 16% 28%

Sports fans = avid + casual fans*

Would you leave your job for a higher paying but unethical company?
Respondents were asked whether they themselves would leave a job for a better paying one that worked 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 the opportunity.

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

N=1,579 Total population sports fan* Not a fan Avid fan Careless fan
Yes 20% 26% 14% 34% 22%
No 61% 59% 62% 52% 62%
I don’t know/I have no opinion 19% 15% 24% 14% 16%

Sports fans = avid + casual fans*

Don’t blame the players
That said, roughly half of those surveyed said they don’t blame 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 established by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund. Over 30 players, including a number of top players, left the PGA Tour to play in the new golf league. Golfers were guaranteed significantly more money playing for LIV Golf than they could earn on the PGA Tour. Do you blame the players for leaving the PGA if they were offered significantly higher winnings?

N=1,579 Total population sports fan* Not a fan Avid fan Careless fan
Yes 24% 32% 14% 39% 29%
No 51% 48% 54% 46% 49%
I don’t know/I have no opinion 25% 20% 32% 15% 22%

Sports fans = avid + casual fans*

“There seems to be an understanding among the public that quote-unquote golfers who defected from the PGA made personal money decisions that benefited them and their families — even if those members of the public may not have done the same,” said Seton Hall Marketing Professor Daniel Ladick, who was the study’s chief methodologist. “But we’ll have to wait and see how and if that translates into their commercial sponsorship deals.”

And then there’s sports laundry
The term “sportswashing” emerged as a term for a nation trying to improve its image through sports. Saudi Arabia has been blamed for this in the creation of the LIV Tour. Poll respondents see LIV as just that – a sports wash – by a margin of 43 to 19 percent among the general population, 49 to 21 percent among sports fans and 52 to 23 percent among avid fans.

The government of Saudi Arabia has been accused of numerous human rights violations. Many journalists believe that the LIV Golf League is “washing the sport”, meaning using the sport as a means to improve its image around the world. Does LIV Golf sound like “sports laundry” to you?

N=1,579 Total population sports fan* Not a fan Avid fan Careless fan
Yes 43% 49% 36% 52% 49%
No 19% 21% 17% 23% 19%
I don’t know/I have no opinion 38% 30% 47% 25% 32%

Sports fans = avid + casual fans*

“Never underestimate the power of sports on the world stage,” said Professor Charles Grantham, director of the Center for Sports Management at Seton Hall’s Stillman School of Business, which sponsored the poll. “When apartheid collapsed, I was asked by Nelson Mandela to come to South Africa with then commissioner David Stern and a delegation of NBA players to help ‘restore hope’ and serve as an inspiration to the youth of South Africa. We gave clinics, met with representatives of the African National Congress and sports officials about using sport as a vehicle for change,” said Grantham, the former executive director of the National Basketball Association. “I was told it helped, and later President Mandela took it a step further when he united his country through its rugby team and the mantra ‘One Team, One Country’. The film Invictus does a good job of showing what this means to the people of South Africa. He concluded: “But the power of sport is not limited to democratization and unity – and to think that LIV is nothing more than golf for the Saudis is nothing more than naive.”

Is the PGA ban OK?
People generally supported 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’s decision, versus 29, 30 and 28 percent (same order) disagreeing .

The PGA, in turn, has barred anyone who plays in LIV tournaments from participating in PGA-sanctioned tournaments. Is this a fair decision by the PGA commissioner?

N=1,579 Total population sports fan* Not a fan Avid fan Careless fan
Yes 38% 47% 27% 51% 46%
No 28% 29% 26% 30% 28%
I don’t know/I have no opinion 34% 24% 47% 19% 26%

Sports fans = avid + casual fans*

An online version of this story with more questions in a chart is available here.

ABOUT THE SURVEY
The Seton Hall Sports Poll, conducted regularly since 2006, is conducted by the Sharkey Institute within the Stillman School of Business. This survey was conducted online by YouGov Plc. using a nationally representative sample weighted by sex, age, ethnicity, education, income, and geography, based on US Census Bureau data. Respondents were selected by YouGov’s inclusion panel to be representative of all US residents. This poll publication complies with the disclosure standards of the National Council on Public Inquiry. The Seton Hall Sports Poll was selected for inclusion in the iPoll by Cornell’s Roper Center for Public Opinion Research and its results 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, [email protected], 908-447-3034; Marty Appel, [email protected]

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