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The Influence of Race on Attitudes about College Athletics (WP-14-23)

James Druckman and Andrew Rodheim

The questions of whether college student-athletes should be paid and/or allowed to unionize have generated a wide-ranging national debate. Public opinion on these issues is starkly divided along racial lines with African Americans being dramatically more supportive than non-African Americans. Druckman and Rodheim posit that the race gap stems from fundamentally distinct mindsets. African Americans view pay for play and unionization as mechanisms to enhance educational experiences and hence as a form of affirmative action. Non-African Americans, in contrast, focus on the extent to which they enjoy the consumption value of college athletics. The researchers present results from a nationally representative survey experiment that supports their expectations. They also find that non-African Americans can be swayed to employ a more race based lens on these issues, although this re-framing does not diminish the attitudinal race gap. They conclude with a discussion about race, sports, and public opinion. 


James Druckman, Payson S. Wild Professor of Political Science and Associate Director and Faculty Fellow, Institute for Policy Research, Northwestern University

Andrew Rodheim, School of Law, Northwestern University

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