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UD spotlights partisan divides on political athletes

Delaware Public Media

A new study from the University of Delaware highlights a disagreement between Democrats and Republicans on whether it is appropriate for professional athletes to speak out politically.

The data comes from UD’s Center for Political Communication. It shows the majority of Republicans think it is inappropriate for professional athletes to speak out on political issues—42.9% said it was not at all appropriate and 33.5% answered not very. Conversely, most Democrats think it is very appropriate—57.5%.

UD Associate Communication Professor Danagal Young says the study is meant to better understand and bridge partisan divides.

“It’s tricky, because every time we study divides between the right and left you always run the risk of just furthering those divides by acknowledging that they exist,” said Young. “Our hope is that we can use this data to create an in-road for these sides to begin to understand each other and help advance the dialogue.”

The data does not show whether Republicans are by and large just disagreeing with what athletes are saying, or whether they are against them speaking out because they are athletes. But Young says she has done other research indicating it could be a bit of both.

“So usually these individuals, from professional athletes to actors and comedians, are speaking out from a liberal point of view. So it could just be that, but there also seems to be this reluctance on the part of conservatives to embrace political speech that comes from people who are not explicitly political,” said Young.

Just over 600 people took the University of Delaware’s online survey for this study.