The role of social context in shaping student-athlete opinions

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How do student-athletes form opinions? This is a particularly important question given ongoing debates about whether student-athletes should be paid and/or allowed to unionize. These debates concern the rights and benefits accrued directly to student-athletes, and thus, understanding their attitudes is of obvious import. Yet, virtually no recent work has delved into how student-athletes form opinions on these issues. We fill this gap with a theoretical framework that predicts changes in social context alter opinions. This leads to the hypothesis that opinions will change once a student-athlete completes his/her career and finds him/herself in a distinct social network. We test the prediction with a survey, implemented in 2012, of one of the most notable athletic conferences in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA): the Big Ten. We find that post-career student-athletes demonstrate higher levels of support for pay for play and unionization. Our results suggest that student-athletes' opinions seem to depend on their extant social contexts. While our data, from 2012, neither speak to current opinions - given the quickly evolving landscape of college athletics - nor demonstrate what reforms may be "best," they do accentuate the power of social context in shaping student-athletes' attitudes.




Druckman, J. N., Gilli, M., Klar, S., & Robison, J. (2014). The role of social context in shaping student-athlete opinions. PLoS ONE, 9(12).

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