Iowa Poll: Iowans support name, image, likeness compensation for college athletes, but split along generational lines

Travis Hines
Des Moines Register
Iowa guard Jordan Bohannon, left, has been among the nation's most outspoken advocates for name, image and likeness rights among athletes, even meeting this spring with NCAA president Mark Emmert on the issue.

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The majority of Iowans believe that collegiate athletes should be able to profit off their name, image and likeness, but that support divides sharply along generational lines, according to the latest Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa Poll. 

The NCAA historically has restricted its athletes from making money off their name, image and likeness as part of its foundational stance that college sports are amateur in nature, although the NCAA and its member institutions are an 11-figure moneymaking enterprise. 

However, the restrictions are about to change. Six states have enacted laws going  in effect July 1 that require schools within their borders to allow collegiate athletes to profit from their name, image and likeness. In two other states, Oklahoma and Nebraska, compensation can begin taking effect anytime after July 1 when schools choose. Iowa has not passed similar legislation, 

The state laws have all but forced the NCAA’s hand to allow for all its athletes in every state in the country to profit from their name, image and likeness rights, often referred to as NIL. 

The NCAA is expected to make a policy change ahead of July 1 that will allow its athletes to reap compensation from moneymakers such as paid social media posts, traditional advertising, running instructional camps or selling merchandise.

Fifty-four percent of Iowans believe that's the right direction — that athletes should be able to profit from use of their name, image and likeness, the poll found. Thirty-six percent oppose the idea, and 10% aren't sure. The poll of 807 Iowa adults was conducted June 13-16 by Selzer & Co. and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points. 

"You see pro athletes do that, but not the college kids,” said Tyler McKiney, a 29-year-old poll respondent from Waterloo who favors the idea. “And why shouldn’t the college kids be able to?” 

McKiney's views are typical for his age group: 69% of Iowans under 35 believe in granting name, image and likeness rights to college athletes. But support drops the older the age group. Approval is 53% among ages 35 to 54, 45% for those 55 to 64, and 41% for Iowans 65 and older.

Tom Higgins, 71, of Titonka, doesn't believe that collegiate athletes should be able to monetize their name, image and likeness.  

"These guys are going to school," he said. "They’re getting an education, and an education is expensive.”

He noted that many college athletes "are never going to be professional. So they’re playing ball for their school.”

However, Martha Doyle, 51 of West Des Moines, views allowing collegiate athletes to make money as simply an issue of fairness.

"Colleges make a lot of money off of their student athletes," Doyle said. "They also benefit quite a bit from the press that they get from their athletic programs. It just makes sense that the athletes should be able to get some of that profit as well."

The NCAA has for decades closely guarded its athletes' amateur status, forbidding collegiate athletes from being compensated not only by schools, but also by university supporters or third-party businesses.

But the new landscape is expected to offer college athletes opportunities to make money from apparel deals, advertising endorsements, running sports camps and monetizing posts to their large followings on social media. 

Doyle, an Iowa Hawkeye fan, said she doesn't believe allowing collegiate athletes to make money will change the perception of college teams.

"If you’re a fan, you’re a fan," she said. "The fact that the athletes are getting reimbursed I don’t think should make a difference." 

While Higgins said he didn't believe athletes should monetize their name, image and likeness, he too said it wouldn’t likely affect his casual interest in college athletics. 

“This only came up a few years ago,” he said. “Nowadays, everybody thinks they have to make money. That’s fine.” 

About the poll 

The Iowa Poll, conducted June 13-16, 2021, for the Des Moines Register and Mediacom by Selzer & Co. of Des Moines, is based on telephone interviews with 807 Iowans ages 18 or older. Interviewers with Quantel Research contacted households with randomly selected landline and cell phone numbers supplied by Dynata. Interviews were administered in English. Responses were adjusted by age, sex and congressional district to reflect the general population based on recent American Community Survey estimates.  

Questions based on the sample of 807 Iowa adults have a maximum margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points. Questions based on the subsample of 630 likely voters in the 2022 midterm election have a maximum margin of error of plus or minus 3.9 percentage points. This means that if this survey were repeated using the same questions and the same methodology, 19 times out of 20, the findings would not vary from the true population value by more than plus or minus 3.5 percentage points or 3.9 percentage points, respectively. Results based on smaller samples of respondents — such as by gender or age — have a larger margin of error.  

Republishing the copyright Iowa Poll without credit to the Des Moines Register and Mediacom is prohibited. 

Dive into more details of the latest Iowa Poll