A study from the USA Today found quality football and home team loyalty drove the TV audience far more than political tribalism.
Eight of the 12 markets where the home team made the playoffs saw ratings increase year over year. In six of the eight non-playoff markets with declining ratings, the home team lost at least half of its games.
During the 2017 season, there was not much evidence of a real-time impact on football viewing with Donald Trump's comments on Sept. 22 about firing players who took a knee during the anthem along with Mike Pence protesting the 49ers kneeling during the anthem by walking out.
All TV programming is taking a ratings hit as cord-cutting consumers switch to streaming services and other digital entertainment options. Yet, NFL games still dominate the list of most-watched shows week after week.
Ratings are generally up for Sunday games this season.