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« | Home | »

Siena poll details reveal lousy news for NY MMA backers & UFC

By Zach Arnold | April 13, 2012

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Overall poll summary here (April 13th, 2012).

Fifty-two percent side with opponents of mixed martial arts (MMA), who say that it is dangerous, even barbaric and that we should not allow such a violent sport to be practiced in New York as opposed to 38 percent that agree with supporters that say it should be legal as it is in many states and that if legal, MMA would generate fan interest, direct revenues and be an engine of economic development.

“While a majority of New Yorkers oppose the legalization of mixed martial arts, young state residents strongly support MMA as do fifty percent of men. MMA is strongly opposed by women and older residents. This is one issue where lines are drawn by age and gender and feelings are strong in each direction,” according to Levy.

807 New York adults polled 3/25-3/29 and 4/1-4/3. +/- 3.5% margin of error.

Lastly, there is an issue being debated in Albany whether or not New York should legalize mixed martial arts, known by some as cage fighting or ultimate fighting. Supporters say it should be legal in the state of New York. Mixed martial arts or MMA is already legal in many states and if legal here in New York would generate fan interest, direct revenues and would be an engine of economic development. Opponents say MMA is dangerous, even barbaric and we should not allow such a violent sport to be practiced here in New York. Do you side with the supporters of MMA or with the opponents?

March 2011 – 39% support, 41% oppose, 19% undecided
September 2011 – 39% support, 48% oppose, 12% undecided
April 2012 – 38% support, 52% oppose, 9% undecided

How the poll crosstabs break down:

April 2012 – 38% support, 52% oppose, 9% undecided

Takeaway: In short, the two sides (pro and con) for MMA legislation in New York remain solidified and unshakeable. The problem is that the undecideds, as they start formulating an opinion on this issue, are all breaking towards opposing legislation in the state.

This is a symbol of the failure of UFC’s public relations campaign in New York to win over hearts and minds. It’s also proof that no matter how many different ways you try to present the public with your dog food, they just aren’t interested enough in it. Given the recent reported issues involving the New York State Athletic Commission, this may be for the best right now.

A further detailed look into the numbers shows how awful the public relations battle has been for UFC so far in terms of persuading residents in the state. The profile of someone in New York who supports MMA right now – male, 18-to-34 year old demo, nothing special employment wise. In the crosstabs, only 11% of those responding were Latino, so that support split doesn’t look so robust there. What makes the numbers even worse is that Democrats made up 44% of those polled — and the majority of online MMA fans are just like pro-wrestling fans, very much liberal in political beliefs. UFC’s not persuading New York liberals, conservatives, or independents on getting legislation passed.

Bottom line: given all of the cash UFC has spent so far in New York, they have yet to produce any sort of political coalition of certain voters (especially women) to make the case as to why MMA legislation should be passed in the state. Given how solid these trends have been with Siena’s polling over the last few years, it should be alarming to UFC that few minds have been persuaded to support their cause — and those who are making a decision one way or another are opposing legislation.

Topics: MMA, Media, UFC, Zach Arnold | 16 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

16 Responses to “Siena poll details reveal lousy news for NY MMA backers & UFC”

  1. Ditch says:

    I wonder how many states where MMA is legal, legalized it at a time when the public would have responded to it the way New Yorkers do. If MMA was legalized quietly and shows started running in MSG, I doubt many MMA opponents would actually notice or care.

  2. 45 Huddle says:

    Well, it’s a good thing that all of our laws aren’t based on a popularity contest.

    I think I saw recently that over 25% of Republicans in MS still believe that Interracial marriage should be illegal. Unbelievable.

    People aren’t forced to watch. And adults are willing participating in these athletic contests.

    I think Rush Limbaugh is a complete tool…. But he should still have an ability to give out his opinion if others are willing to listen.

    • Zach Arnold says:

      The message from the consistent poll numbers is simple — UFC’s NY strategy has gone nowhere.

      They went straight for the legislature with lobbyists. They went to the top rather than build grassroots support and build a voter constituency.

      So, now that they turn the pressure up on pols to pass legislation, there’s no voter outcry in the state to force the pols to be persuaded to pass the bill.

      The fact that the poll numbers remain the same, if not worse, over the last few years since UFC started spending money in the state is a clear indication that their strategy has not panned out the way they thought it would.

      If they change course and start grassroots building, then there’s nothing wrong with that and they should be applauded for adapting to the temperature on the ground. But if they continue the same policy and get the same results? Bad idea.

      • 45 Huddle says:

        New York is such a cluster f#ck when it comes to politics. It should take $0 to get MMA legalized in New York.

        I think it is just going to take the right mix of politicians for one year to get it legalized. Either that or the UFC has a break out star, gets big ratings on FOX, and then when they go to MSG to put on a show, there is too much pressure on the state not to cave.

  3. DJ ThunderElbows says:

    The city and state has enough issues that eclipse something as silly as meatheads ripping it into pieces. I’m of the belief that if they pushed it as professional martial arts instead of professional fighting they’d have a chance of getting the public on their side but Dana has chosen a different path.

    Does this city (NY) need meathead violence marketed to the public?

    Do we need testosterone-enhanced meathead violence promoted in this town?

  4. nottheface says:

    I’ve written about this before but I think one of the major problems with the UFC’s strategy has been that it has been about bringing in the UFC and not focused on allowing MMA. They’ve made it about them, which brings a lot of baggage with it in probably the most pro union state in the nation. Best thing they could do is throw their support behind someone else and let a local figure take the lead.

    • 45 Huddle says:

      And who would that be?

      The UFC name has helped them get sanctioning in 40+ states.

      New York isn’t special. Just corrupt. You can look at any strategy you want. It’s not the UFC. It’s New York who is the problem.

      • nottheface says:

        The Coalition to Legalize Mixed Martial Arts in New York is a local, less antagonistic option. As for the UFC’s strategy, 2 things are apparent: it isn’t working and others in New York have pointed out how it sucks.

        • Steve4192 says:

          I don’t understand why you are and Zach are dumping all of this in Zuffa’s lap. Doesn’t the Coalition to Legalize Mixed Martial Arts in New York share the failure here? They have been boots on the ground in New York and failed to make an impact too. What makes you think that Zuffa bowing out and turning control over to them would improve the situation?

        • nottheface says:

          Because with the UFC and Zuffa running point on the issue it can and has been turned into a debate over legalizing the UFC and not MMA, over politicians siding with their fellow union brothers and supporters or with the crude misogynistic, anti-unionist (which is how they’re now portayed). In otherwords everything but a debate over MMA.

          I’m not saying Zuffa should have stayed completely out of it, but Dana could have been pointing to a local group, even if it was really only a front, as one for MMA fans to rally behind. They could have sent money to that group, verbally supported it, offered assistance, etc.

          And the people who really deserve the blame are the lobbyists at Brown, McMahon & Weinraub who’ve done such a poor and expensive job.

  5. EJ says:

    The only thing clear to me about that poll is that alot of people NY are alot more ignorant than I could have ever imagined. There are several states i’d think that would have a problem with mma but NY which is supposed to be progressive isn’t one of them.

    To me this goes beyond anything the UFC can do that much ammount of sheer ignorance is beyond help at this point. If NY needs to be convinced why mma an incredibly popular sport that has grown over the past 10 years and shown that it’s nothing like it was in the dark ages needs to be legal. Then they don’t really deserve to have the UFC host a show there and there loss is everybody elses gain.

  6. Zach Arnold says:

    Steve4192 writes:

    I don’t understand why you are and Zach are dumping all of this in Zuffa’s lap. Doesn’t the Coalition to Legalize Mixed Martial Arts in New York share the failure here? They have been boots on the ground in New York and failed to make an impact too. What makes you think that Zuffa bowing out and turning control over to them would improve the situation?

    I’m glad you brought this up for a couple of reasons.

    First, I agree with you – right now, there’s no effective grassroots organization that has any sort of political clout to get the ball rolling for momentum.

    UFC had one of two choices – spend millions of dollars right with the lobbyists and try a top-down approach or spend that cash to start building up grassroots & cultural support in the state for MMA. They chose the former and the end result is that they’ve put the cart before the horse. If you’re a pol being lobbied by UFC, what pressure is there to vote for MMA legislation? Women oppose MMA legislation 26/60. African Americans oppose it. The only block of people that support MMA legislation is white males 18-34 y/o’s and that figure is only at around 50% support amongst men. Furthermore, the 18-34 y/o group is the least reliable voter block for a politician. On top of that, women are much more reliable to vote regularly than men. So, put that altogether and you have no winning voter/grassroots coalition in New York.

    Zuffa decided that they wanted to be the face of MMA legislation campaigning in New York. Rather than build up local organizations & political groups, they went straight to the legislature. They did not read the temperature of the state right. In the years they have poured cash into the state via lobbyists and other hired flacks, they’ve made zero dent in the poll numbers. In fact, undecideds on the topic continue to break against them the more they learn about the proposed legislation.

    There’s a lot of reasons for this (and I probably will write about it in length in a new post later on), but the truth is that UFC wanted this political fight in New York and the Siena poll merely highlights what we knew on a gut level — nothing Zuffa has done so far has worked and unless they change course soon, they will continue to be stuck in this political quagmire.

    UFC wanted the job of ‘educating’ New York residents about MMA and so far they’ve done a consistently poor job of it. Zuffa views itself as ‘the sport’ and so far they haven’t done a very good job of marketing the appeal of MMA in the state.

    • fd2 says:

      “UFC had one of two choices – spend millions of dollars right with the lobbyists and try a top-down approach or spend that cash to start building up grassroots & cultural support in the state for MMA. They chose the former and the end result is that they’ve put the cart before the horse. If you’re a pol being lobbied by UFC, what pressure is there to vote for MMA legislation? “

      The problem with this analysis is that a majority of the New York Senate has already signalled their willingness to vote for a bill legalizing MMA. The bill has consistently been stalled from coming to the floor by one man, Sheldon Silver. You may argue that public pressure might force his hand, but there is a limit to how much public pressure can be applied to a long-serving, high-ranking politician from a safe (party-wise) district.

      Ultimately, public campaigns are rarely what get bills passed. Legislative deals and lobbying are much more consistent and effective forms of getting what you want – which is why major companies do a lot of lobbying, and very little public campaigning, for the legislation they support.

      • Zach Arnold says:

        None of the major voting blocks of Democratic politicians support MMA legislation in New York.

        Want Sheldon Silver to reconsider? Get one of those voting blocks to be persuaded to make the push.

        When none of said voting blocks is in support of legislation, it makes his decision really easy and it makes pushing through the Assembly a futile effort.

        3 out of 4 women in New York consistently do not support MMA legislation. I don’t care what kind of business you run, when you have low support from women in the business & political arena you are screwed.

        • fd2 says:

          “None of the major voting blocks of Democratic politicians support MMA legislation in New York.
          Want Sheldon Silver to reconsider? Get one of those voting blocks to be persuaded to make the push.”

          I agree! But voting blocks of politicians are moved considerably more by lobbyists and corporate donations than they are by public pressure. So again, I disagree with your analysis – the UFC is going through exactly the right channels to legalize mma. They simply haven’t been successful yet. Putting on a public relations campaign is simply a waste of money.

  7. Light23 says:

    It’s really dumb to ask a poll question using loaded terms like “cage fighting” or less than flattering brand names like “ultimate fighting”.

    Yes, it is true that it is fighting, and it takes place in a cage, but the use of the word “cage” is clearly intended to colour perception. Cages conjure images of prisons and dangerous animals. There’s no difference between “regular” fighting and fighting that takes place in a cage, so why include the word at all? I’ve played tennis in a cage before – I wasn’t aware that I was actually playing cage tennis!

    By using such terminology, people who aren’t familiar with MMA (especially old people and women) are going to be instantly turned off.

    If the term “Mixed Martial Arts” was the only one used, I think the results would’ve been massively different. Although having said that, most people do view the sport as being “cage fighting” and have considerable contempt towards it, so meh, what’s the point.

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