HPU/News and Record Poll: Half of North Carolinians Tune Out March Madness

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Half of North Carolinians support college athlete endorsement deals.


HIGH POINT, N.C., Mar. 5, 2020 – A High Point University/News & Record Poll finds that half of North Carolinians may not be following March Madness very closely this year, and a majority of them said that college athletes should be able to sign endorsement deals. 

Almost half of North Carolina residents (47%) said they are not at all closely following the NCAA Division I basketball tournament, compared to half (47%) of respondents who said they are following March Madness either extremely closely (14%), very closely (13%) or somewhat closely (20%).

A near majority of these North Carolina respondents (43%) said the media pays about the right amount of attention to the tournament. About a third (32%) of North Carolina residents said the media pays too much attention, and only 7% said the media pays too little attention to March Madness. 

Nearly half of North Carolinians (48%) said that student athletes should be able to get paid for the use of their names, images or likenesses. Just over a third (38%) of people in the state said that they should not be paid. A majority (60%) think that college athletes should be able to sign deals to endorse particular products while they are in college, and 40% said they should not be able to endorse products.

“Almost half of North Carolinians responding to our poll are not closely following March Madness this year,” says Brian McDonald, associate director of the HPU Poll and adjunct instructor. “However, most poll respondents do not have a problem with college athletes signing endorsement deals for particular products while they are in college.”

Holding the ACC basketball tournament in Greensboro, North Carolina, this year does not make much difference either way for a majority of the poll respondents. While only 21% said that having the tournament in Greensboro will make them more likely to watch, 65% said that it does not make much difference either way.

Finally, over half (54%) of poll respondents said that colleges and universities that have big-time sports programs place too much emphasis on athletics over academics. About 29% said that they maintain the right balance, and 17% didn’t offer an opinion.

All adults – Attention to March Madness (February 2020)

How closely are you following the men’s NCAA Division I basketball tournament also called March Madness? Would you say extremely closely, very closely, somewhat closely, or not at all closely? 

Extremely closely – 14%

Very closely – 13%

Somewhat closely – 20%

Not at all closely – 47%

Don’t know – 6%

(All adult North Carolina residents phone and online sample, surveyed Feb. 21 – 28, 2020, n = 1,216 and credibility interval of +/- 3.4%)

All adults – Media Attention to March Madness (February 2020)

Would you say that the media pays too much, too little, or about the right amount of attention to the men’s Division I NCAA basketball tournament also called March Madness?

Too much – 32%

About the right amount – 43%

Too little – 7%

Don’t know/refuse – 18%

(All adult North Carolina residents phone and online sample, surveyed Feb. 21 – 28, 2020, n = 1,216 and credibility interval of +/- 3.4%)

All adults – Student Athlete Pay (February 2020)

Do you think student athletes should be able to get paid for the use of their names, images or likenesses?

Should be paid – 48%

Should not be paid – 38%

Don’t know/ Refuse – 15%

(All adult North Carolina residents phone and online sample, surveyed Feb. 21 – 28, 2020, n = 1,216 and credibility interval of +/- 3.4%)

All adults – Student Athlete Deals (February 2020)

More specifically, do you think that college athletes should be able to sign deals to endorse particular products while they are in college?

Yes – 60%

No – 40%

(All adult North Carolina residents phone and online sample, surveyed Feb. 21 – 28, 2020, n = 1,216 and credibility interval of +/- 3.4%)

All adults – ACC Basketball Tournament (February 2020)

The Atlantic Coast Conference or ACC basketball tournament will be in Greensboro, North Carolina, this year. Does that make you more or less likely to watch the tournament or does it not make much difference either way?

More likely to watch – 21%

Less likely to watch – 7%

Does not make much difference either way – 65%

Don’t know – 6%

(All adult North Carolina residents phone and online sample, surveyed Feb. 21 – 28, 2020, n = 1,216 and credibility interval of +/- 3.4%)

All adults – Athletic/Academic balance (February 2020)

Do you think colleges and universities that have big-time sports programs maintain the right balance between academics and athletics or do they place too much emphasis on athletics over academics?

Right balance – 29%

Too much emphasis on athletics over academics – 54%

Don’t know/refused – 17%

(All adult North Carolina residents phone and online sample, surveyed Feb. 21 – 28, 2020, n = 1,216 and credibility interval of +/- 3.4%)

The most recent HPU Poll was fielded by live interviewers at the High Point University Survey Research Center calling on Feb. 21 through Feb. 28, 2020 and an online survey fielded at the same time. The responses from a sample of all North Carolina counties came from 1,216 adults interviewed online (916 respondents) as well as landline or cellular telephones (300 respondents). The Survey Research Center contracted with dynata, formerly Research Now SSI: https://www.dynata.com/ to acquire these samples, and fielded the online survey using its Qualtrics platform. This is a combined sample of live phone interviews and online interviews. The online sampling is from a panel of respondents, so their participation does not adhere to usual assumptions associated with random selection. Therefore, it is not appropriate to assign a classical margin of sampling error for the results. In this case, the SRC provides a credibility interval of plus or minus 3.4 percentage points to account for a traditional 95% confidence interval for the estimates (plus or minus 2.8 percentage points) and a design effect of 1.2 (based on the weighting). The data is weighted toward population estimates for age, gender, race/ethnicity, and education level based on U.S. Census numbers for North Carolina. Factors such as question wording and other methodological choices in conducting survey research can introduce additional error into the findings of opinion polls. Details from this survey are available at http://www.highpoint.edu/src/files/2020/03/70memoB.pdf

Further results and methodological details from the most recent survey and past studies can be found at the Survey Research Center website at http://www.highpoint.edu/src/. The materials online include past press releases as well as memos summarizing the findings (including approval ratings) for each poll since 2010.

The HPU Poll reports methodological details in accordance with the standards set out by AAPOR’s Transparency Initiative, and the HPU Survey Research Center is a Charter Member of the Initiative. For more information, see http://transparency.aapor.org/index.php/transparency.

You can follow the HPU Poll on Twitter at https://twitter.com/HPUSurveyCenter.

Dr. Martin Kifer, chair and associate professor of political science, serves as the director of the HPU Poll, and Brian McDonald is the associate director of the HPU Poll.

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