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Source: Bucknell University

California recently passed the "Fair Pay for Play" Act, which overrides the NCAA's previous ban on players profiting from receiving financial benefits aside from scholarships from their sports activities. The sports organization, in light of this, voted to modify their rules to allow college athletes to profit from their names, images, and likenesses. The rules have not yet been formally changed.

Public opinion about these policy changes is incredibly divided.

Bucknell Institute for Public Policy (BIPP) ran a national survey on the subject and found that a significant majority of Americans support paying collegiate athletes, but the opinions on the subject are largely split by political party affiliation, age, and gender lines.

“Our data shows significant support for California’s ‘pay for play’ law and the NCAA’s new rule, as well as for having schools pay their athletes,” said Chris Ellis, a political science professor and director of Bucknell’s Survey Research Laboratory. “But like everything else, the results are heavily polarized along party lines: Democrats are overwhelmingly in favor of pay for play, while Republicans are much cooler about it. There is also a big generational divide: younger people are more likely to want to see athletes paid than older ones.”

The national survey, administered by YouGov for BIPP’s Survey Research Laboratory from Oct. 20 through Oct. 26, found 47 percent of Americans polled support the recently passed Fair Pay for Play Act in California, while only 20 percent oppose the measure. However, 62 percent of Democrats support the bill compared to 34 percent of Republicans, 56 percent of respondents under 30 years old support the bill compared to 39 percent of those over 50 years, and 53 percent of men support the measure, compared to 42 percent of women.

The California law and the proposed changes coming from the NCAA do not address the question of collegiate institutions outright paying college athletes directly. However, 40 percent of respondents also agreed that college athletes who earn revenue for their schools should be paid above and beyond any scholarship they receive, compared to 32 percent of those who disagree. Similar variances were again seen among the demographic breakdown above.

“As college football and basketball become increasingly more lucrative businesses, calls for athletes to receive a share of the pie will continue to grow,” Ellis said. “But if changes are going to come from state governments as opposed to the NCAA, then we need to remember that legislators are responsible to their voters. And there will be some states — particularly ‘red’ ones — where these changes will be harder to achieve for that reason.” An example of this: North Carolina Senator Richard Burr proposed taxing some scholarships like income after the NCAA voted on changing the rules.