Even in ‘Year of Women Running for Office,’ Americans Say Women Athletes Preferable to Politicians

South Orange, NJ, November 1, 2018 — Even in a year filled with stories of women running for elected office more than ever before, Americans prefer women athletes as role models over women politicians by substantial margins, according to a poll conducted this week by the Seton Hall Sports Poll.

Asked who would make a preferable role model, the poll found that by more than a 2-1 margin, (54-24%) people said a professional or collegiate woman athlete over a female politician, and to the question, “if you had a daughter, would you prefer a career in politics or athletics,” 45% said athletics to 29% politics.  The responses were generally consistent among men and women, with men saying “athlete” by 44-31% and women saying athlete by 45-27%.

Still, the importance of women seeking elected office was not overlooked.  Asked if they would be more likely to watch a women’s athletic event or vote for a woman for Congress – 32% said vote for a woman, 7% said watch an athletic event, and 49% said equally likely.

The poll was conducted October 29-31 among 839 adults across the country, on landline and cellphone, with a margin of error of +/- 3.4%.

“Despite the media coverage of the number of women running, untarnished by years in office, the very idea of politicians as role models or politics as a career is not viewed favorably compared to athletics,” noted Rick Gentile, director of the poll, which is sponsored by the Sharkey Institute.   “And given a choice of ‘neither’, only 14% opted for that, a surprisingly low number, given that the two fields are relatively new career paths.”

The poll also asked which women’s sports people were likely to watch, with tennis (33%), basketball (26%) and soccer (16%) leading the way.

Asked if they thought women have an equal opportunity to receive a college scholarship for athletics as men, respondents say yes by a slim 46-43% margin, but asked if women SHOULD have an equal opportunity, an overwhelming 95% said yes.

The Official Seton Hall Sports Poll podcast discussing this topic with Seth Everett and Rick Gentile can be found at https://itunes.apple.com/mt/podcast/seton-hall-sports-poll/id1053266467.


One of the country’s leading Catholic universities, Seton Hall has been showing the world what great minds can do since 1856. Home to nearly 10,000 undergraduate and graduate students and offering more than 90 rigorous academic programs, Seton Hall’s academic excellence has been singled out for distinction by The Princeton Review, U.S. News & World Report and Bloomberg Businessweek.

Seton Hall embraces students of all religions and prepares them to be exemplary servant leaders and global citizens. In recent years, the University has achieved extraordinary success. Since 2009, it has seen record-breaking undergraduate enrollment growth and an impressive 110-point increase in the average SAT scores of incoming freshmen. In the past decade, Seton Hall students and alumni have received more than 30 Fulbright Scholarships as well as other prestigious academic honors, including Boren Awards, Pickering Fellowships, Udall Scholarships and a Rhodes Scholarship. The University is also proud to be the third most diverse national Catholic university in the nation.

During the past five years, the University has invested more than $165 million in new campus buildings and renovations. And in 2015, Seton Hall launched a School of Medicine as well as a College of Communication and the Arts. The University’s beautiful main campus in suburban South Orange, N.J. is only 14 miles from New York City — offering students a wealth of employment, internship, cultural and entertainment opportunities. Seton Hall’s nationally recognized School of Law is located prominently in downtown Newark. The University’s Interprofessional Health Sciences (IHS) campus in Clifton and Nutley, N.J. opened in the summer of 2018. The IHS campus houses the University’s College of Nursing, School of Health and Medical Sciences and the Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine at Seton Hall University.

For more information, visit www.shu.edu.

About the poll:

This poll was conducted by telephone October 29-31 among adults in the United States. The Seton Hall Sports Poll is conducted by the Sharkey Institute. Phone numbers were dialed from samples of both standard landline and cell phones.  The error for subgroups may be higher. This poll release conforms to the Standards of Disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls. The Seton Hall Sports Poll has been conducted regularly since 2006.

Media: Media: Marty Appel, AppelPR@gmail.com; Rick Gentile (917) 881-9489
Michael Ricciardelli, Associate Director of Media Relations, Seton Hall
michael.ricciardelli@shu.edu, 908-447-3034

The results:

  1. Are you more likely to watch a professional women’s athletic event or vote for a women for congress or are they equally likely?

1 – Watch an athletic event: 7%
2 – Vote for a woman for congress: 32%
3 – Equally likely: 49%
4 – Don’t know/No opinion: 11%

  1. How often do you watch women’s sporting events, frequently, occasionally, rarely or never?

1 – Frequently: 8%
2 – Occasionally: 33%
3 – Rarely: 33%
4 – Never: 26%
5 – Don’t know: 1%

  1. Which women’s sporting event are you more likely to watch: Tennis, golf, basketball, soccer or ice hockey?


1 – Tennis: 33%
2 – Golf: 8%
3 – Basketball: 26%
4 – Soccer: 16%
5 – Ice Hockey: 6%
6 – Other: 9%
7 – None: 1%
8 – Don’t know/No opinion: 1%

  1. Whom do you think makes a better role model, a professional female athlete, a collegiate female athlete or a female politician?

1 – Professional athlete: 28%
2 – Collegiate athlete: 24%
3 – Politician: 26%
4 – Don’t know/No opinion: 22%

  1. If you had a daughter would you prefer she pursues a career in politics or athletics?

1 – Politics: 29%
2 – Athletics: 45%
3 – Neither: 14%
4 – Don’t know/No opinion: 12%

  1. Do you think women have an equal opportunity to receive a college scholarship for athletics as men?

1 – Yes: 46%
2 – No: 43%
3 – Don’t know/No opinion   11%

  1. Do you think women SHOULD have an equal opportunity to receive a college scholarship for athletics as men?

1 – Yes: 95%
2 – No: 3%
3 – Don’t know/No opinion: 2%

  1. How closely would you say you follow sports, very closely, closely, not closely or not at all?

1 – Very closely: 17%
2 – Closely: 29%
3 – Not closely: 37%
4 – Not at all: 16%

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