Polling on paying college athletes

Thanks to Chris Mitchell, of the Reason Foundation, which publishes Reason Magazine, for bringing my attention to a recent poll conducted by Rupe-Reason. The poll includes dozens of questions about politics and other issues. Three questions focus on the NCAA. The first asks respondents whether “college basketball players be allowed to receive a portion of the revenues generated from NCAA tournaments or should that not be allowed?” The second begins with a prompt noting that the NCAA makes $700 million a year in TV revenue from the tournament and then asks whether players should receive a small portion, a large portion or none of the revenue. The third asks whether athletes should receive some portion of the revenue from jersey sales or video games that include athletes likenesses.

Alexis Garcia wrote up some of the results last week at Reason’s blog. A couple of highlights:

1) by 50-42, respondents answered “not allowed” to the first question. When given the information about the money involved, this result more or less flipped – by 50-42, Americans thought players should receive some portion of the revenue once they knew how much money was involved.

2) a large majority – 64-32 – believe that athletes should be entitled to some of the revenue from jersey sales and video games. I confess that, while I am heartened by the large majority in favor, I am surprised that fully one third would answer “should not be allowed” to this question.

3) As Alexis notes, there is a large racial gap in the poll. Even before the revenue prompt, 66% of African Americans said college basketball players should receive some of the revenue from the tournament, while only 35% of whites agreed. And even after they hear how much money the NCAA makes, a majority of whites still oppose players receiving any cut of the take. The racial composition of the sport, I trust, is known to everyone reading this.

4) Because I am a political science geek, I thought it was interesting to note that Democrats were substantially more likely to support players receiving a piece of the TV pie than Republicans. By 52-43, Democrats were in favor, even before they heard the dollar figure prompt. Republicans were opposed, 62-29. Independents, as is their wont, were somewhere in the middle, slightly more opposed than supportive. Once they knew how much cash was involved, the gap closed. Democrats favored given at least a “small portion” of revenue to players by 58-41, while Republicans were still opposed, but by a smaller 54-41 margin.

5) higher income Americans are more opposed than low and middle income Americans to players receiving a cut.

Anyway, really interesting stuff and thanks again to Chris Mitchell of Reason for alerting me to the poll and generously sharing with me the internals.

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