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Poll: Majority of Americans Do Not Think Collegiate Athletes Should Be Paid

But Two-thirds Say Compensation Is in Order for Use in Video Games, Mass Marketing

Hand holding basketball with arena in background.


Contacts: Christine Gillette, 978-934-2209 (o), 978-758-4664 (c) or, Nancy Cicco, 978-934-4944 or

LOWELL, Mass. – A majority of Americans say college athletes should not be compensated beyond scholarships, according to results of a UMass Lowell-Washington Post poll released today. 

But when marketing, including video games, are involved, two-thirds of respondents said collegiate athletes should be compensated if their names or likenesses are used, according to the findings of the poll, which surveyed 1,000 American adults on their attitudes about sports and related issues. 

The poll also found that college football is second in popularity only to pro football, of which 60 percent of respondents said they are fans. College football and Major League Baseball tied at 45 percent and college basketball is not far behind with 35 percent, just 4 percent shy of pro basketball and ahead of other professional sports including boxing (28 percent), mixed martial arts (25 percent), auto racing and soccer (both 24 percent) and ice hockey (22 percent). 

A majority of all of those polled, 52 percent, said that collegiate athletes are adequately compensated with scholarships and should not receive compensation based on revenue generated for their schools. However, when asked if college athletes should be paid if their name or likeness is used in marketing or video games, two-thirds believe they should be paid, even if they are receiving a full-ride academic scholarship, and less than a third said they should not be paid. 

“When polled on policy issues, we often see individuals express a general opinion that differs from a specific context. This is precisely what we see with the issue of paying college athletes. Most Americans believe that scholarships are adequate compensation for college athletes, generally speaking. But a surprisingly large majority of Americans say that athletes deserve to be paid when colleges and universities generate revenues from the name or image of players,” said Prof. Joshua Dyck, co-director of UMass Lowell’s Center for Public Opinion. 

Other findings from the poll include:

  • Both collegiate basketball and football draw their biggest support from respondents who have a college degree, 41 percent and 50 percent, respectively, and live in the South, 54 percent for football and 42 percent for basketball. College football had nearly as much support among Midwesterners, 51 percent, as among those from the South.
  • Among ethnic groups, college football and basketball are the most popular with African-American respondents, 58 percent and 57 percent, respectively.
  • Forty percent of those polled whose family annual income is more than $100,000 said they are college basketball fans.
  • Support for compensating college athletes based on revenue was strongest among African-American respondents (54 percent in favor) and all respondents who consider themselves avid sports fans (45 percent in favor). 
  • The most support for providing scholarships rather than revenue-based compensation was among white respondents, 59 percent.

Results of the UMass Lowell-Washington Post poll, which looks at Americans’ opinions on a variety of sports and related issues, are based on live interviews with a random sample of 1,000 American adults conducted in English and Spanish via cellular telephones and landlines Aug. 14 through Aug. 21. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.7 percent for all respondents. Details on methodology and additional poll data and analysis are available at

UMass Lowell is a national research university located on a high-energy campus in the heart of a global community. The university offers its 18,000 students bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in business, education, engineering, fine arts, health, humanities, sciences and social sciences. UMass Lowell delivers high-quality educational programs, vigorous hands-on learning and personal attention from leading faculty and staff, all of which prepare graduates to be ready for work, for life and for all the world offers.