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News "Shut up and Dribble" Attitude More Prevalent among Republicans

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Results reveal sharp partisan divides in perceived roles of athletes and celebrities
How appropriate is it for professional athletes to speak out about political issues or causes?

​March 2018 University of Delaware Poll

MARCH 29, 2018—A majority of Republicans believe professional athletes should not speak out about politics and causes, with a sizable portion saying it is completely inappropriate for them to do so, according to a new national poll conducted for the University of Delaware’s Center for Political Communication.

More than 40% of Republicans say it is "not at all appropriate" for professional athletes to speak out about political issues or causes, compared to approximately 5% of Democrats. At the same time, nearly 60% of Democrats say such speech is "very appropriate," with just over 8% of Republicans saying so. Independents are more evenly distributed across the scale.

The national poll, conducted by RABA Research, comes just weeks after conservative FOX News host Laura Ingraham rebuked LeBron James for "talking politics" and said, "Keep the political comments to yourselves ... Shut up and dribble."

More recently,  the  Sacramento  Kings  players  and  owner  have  spoken  out  publicly  about  the  fatal police shooting of 22-year old Stephon Clark, followed by the joint release of a PSA with the Boston Celtics calling for "accountability."

"What we are witnessing is a divide in terms of how Americans think about political speech—in particular, who gets to speak," says Dr. Dannagal Young, Associate Professor of Communication at the University of Delaware.

Professional athletes are paid to play the game, not share their political opinion

"Part of this divide stems from the fact that celebrities and athletes tend to speak out for liberal causes. In addition, liberals have a history of political expression in non-political realms dating back to the music, art, and activism of the 1960s counterculture. Hence, it is unsurprising that we find more support for celebrity political expression among Democrats than Republicans."

These divides are further exemplified in responses to the prompt, "Professional athletes are paid to play the game, not share their political opinion." While nearly 25% of Democrats agreed with this statement, a majority — 79% — of Republicans agreed.

Shifting partisan support for First Amendment
When celebrities speak out about politics, they are exercising their First Amendment rights.

Respondents were also asked whether such speech constitutes First Amendment rights when celebrities speak out about politics. Among Democrats, 57% strongly agreed and 30% agreed with the statement, "When celebrities speak out about politics, they are exercising their First Amendment rights." Among Republicans, nearly 18% strongly agreed and 51% agreed with the same statement.

“What’s most striking is not comparing how Americans across the ideological spectrum agree versus disagree with the statement, but how extreme the differences are between Democrats and Republicans in ‘agree’ and ‘strongly agree,’” said Dr. Lindsay Hoffman, Associate Director of the Center for Political Communication. "For many years, Americans have been largely supportive of the First Amendment, even in some of the most politically contentious years, like 2017, according to the First Amendment Center at the Newseum. Yet even our Supreme Court Justices are often blinded by their ideology when it comes to supporting the First Amendment in cases that oppose their point of view. Political scientists Lee Epstein, Jeffrey Segal, and Christopher Parker concluded that many Supreme Court Justices’ votes in free speech cases are opportunistic and strongly correlated to the ideology of the speech or the speaker. Our poll suggests that support for celebrities tends to be much greater among Democrats than Republicans, perhaps as a result of outspoken celebrities who have recently taken on more liberal causes."

About the study

Interviews of 607 American adults were conducted March 21-22, 2018, via online interviews. The results were weighted to ensure a proportional response. The margin of error for these results is +/-4.1%. Party ID was re-coded to three categories for graphic purposes (Democrats = 298; Independents = 127; and Republicans = 182). For questions on methodology, please email: info@rabaresearch.com or call 917-685-4819. The National Agenda Opinion Project research is funded by the University of Delaware's nonpartisan Center for Political Communication (CPC). The study was supervised by the CPC's Associate Director, Lindsay Hoffman (Associate Professor), Dannagal Young (Associate Professor), and Phil Jones (Associate Professor) in the Departments of Communication and Political Science & International Relations.

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A new University of Delaware national poll shows that many Republicans believe professional athletes and celebrities should stay out of politics and causes.

A new University of Delaware national poll shows that many Republicans believe professional athletes and celebrities should stay out of politics and causes.


3/29/2018
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