Gender Policy Feedback: Perceptions of Sex Equity, Title IX, and Political Mobilization among College Athletes

Date01 September 2018
Published date01 September 2018
Subject MatterArticles
Political Research Quarterly
2018, Vol. 71(3) 642 –653
© 2018 University of Utah
Reprints and permissions:
DOI: 10.1177/1065912917753078
What do citizens think about public policies that affect
them? Political scientists have addressed this founda-
tional question when it comes to an array of policies
including Social Security (Campbell 2003), the
Affordable Care Act (Jacobs and Mettler, forthcoming;
Lerman and McCabe 2017), welfare reform (Soss and
Schram 2007), and the G.I. Bill (Mettler 2002). Yet, vir-
tually no work explores citizens’ reactions to one of the
most discussed pieces of sex non-discrimination policy in
U.S. history—Title IX of the Education Amendments of
1972. We extend work on “policy feedback” into this
domain of U.S. civil rights policy. We offer a theory about
perceptions of sex inequities among one of Title IX’s
most affected populations: college student-athletes. We
assess our hypotheses with a survey of student-athletes
from a major athletic conference.
We find that college student-athletes—particularly
women and those who believe sex discrimination in soci-
ety persists—perceive significant gender biases in col-
lege athletics. These student-athletes also support
redistribution of athletic resources to address extant
inequalities and are willing to take political action (i.e.,
writing letters, signing petitions, or attending protests) to
address the issue. The results reveal that, from the per-
spective of student-athletes, the implementation of Title
IX has not yet produced the policy’s aim of eliminating
sex-based discrimination. The Act may have established
expectations of equality for women and men in educa-
tional institutions, but its implementation has inculcated
perceptions of gender inequality within college athletics.
The findings accentuate a possible representation conun-
drum inherent to the contemporary politics of Title IX
such that those most affected by the policy are not the
constituents to whom policy makers and college leaders
fully respond.1
Title IX, Opinions about Sex
Inequities, and Policy Feedback
Passed by the U.S. Congress on June 23, 1972, in an
omnibus bill to amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title
IX states, “No person shall, on the basis of sex, be
excluded from participation in, denied benefits of, or be
753078PRQXXX10.1177/1065912917753078Political Research QuarterlyDruckman et al.
1Northwestern University, Evanston, IL, USA
2University of Massachusetts Amherst, USA
Corresponding Author:
James N. Druckman, Department of Political Science, Northwestern
University, 601 University Place, Evanston, IL 60208, USA.
Gender Policy Feedback: Perceptions
of Sex Equity, Title IX, and Political
Mobilization among College Athletes
James N. Druckman1, Jacob E. Rothschild1, and Elizabeth A. Sharrow2
Public policies invariably confer or deny benefits to particular citizens. How citizens respond to relevant policies has
fundamental implications for democratic responsiveness. We study the beliefs of a core constituency of one of the
most celebrated sex non-discrimination policies in U.S. history: Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. Using
a novel survey of college student-athletes, we find strong support for the spirit of the policy, with the vast majority of
respondents reporting the opinion that there “should” be equity. Concurrently, student-athletes also perceive mal-
distribution among status quo resources and opportunities and believe that redistribution is needed. Furthermore, they
are willing to take political action to improve equality. Consistent with our expectations, these beliefs are particularly
salient for women and those who perceive persistent sex discrimination in society. Our results reveal “positive policy
feedback” among policy beneficiaries of Title IX who mobilize to seek equity in athletics. The dissatisfaction among
policy beneficiaries raises questions about democratic responsiveness (e.g., to whom are policymakers and leaders in
college athletics responding?) and highlights the political nature of college athletics.
policy feedback, Title IX, public opinion, gender politics, sports politics

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