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Public Opinion, Crisis, and Vulnerable Populations: The Case of Title IX and COVID-19 (WP-20-34)

James Druckman and Elizabeth Sharrow

A central function of democratic institutions is to protect vulnerable populations. The stability and success of these institutions depends, in part, on popular support. Times of crisis can introduce novel dynamics that alter popular support for protective institutions, particularly among those who do not benefit from those protections. The authors explore this possibility in the context of Title IX’s gender equality requirements and infrastructure to address sexual harassment in college sports. They use a large survey of college student-athletes to study their attitudes in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic and concomitant financial challenges affecting college sports. The researchers find that male student-athletes and those with sexist attitudes exhibit alarmingly low levels of support for ensuring the maintenance of equality and sexual harassment policy under Title IX. The results accentuate the vulnerability of certain populations during crises and the importance of maintaining strong institutional policy support during such times.

James Druckman, Payson S. Wild Professor of Political Science and IPR Fellow, Northwestern University

Elizabeth Sharrow, Assistant Professor of Political Science and History, University of Massachusetts, Amherst

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