The role of social context in shaping student-athlete opinions

James N. Druckman, Mauro Gilli, Samara Klar, Joshua Robison

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere115159
JournalPloS one
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 18 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • General


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