Marist Center for Sports Communication/Marist Poll: Title IX, June 2022

On June 23rd, the nation will mark the 50th Anniversary of Title IX, the groundbreaking legislation which banned discrimination based on sex in the United States. Fifty years later, most Americans recognize Title IX’s effect on the growth of women’s sports, but nearly half think more needs to be done to level the playing field for female athletes.

Seventy-five percent of Americans, including 83% of Americans who have heard of Title IX and 78% of sports fans, believe Title IX played a role in increasing the prominence of women’s sports in the last few decades. Men (17%) are more likely than women (11%) to consider Title IX to be the main catalyst for the growth of women’s sports.

Nearly two in three Americans, including more than three in four who have heard of Title IX, consider the impact of Title IX on women’s opportunities in sports and the impact on high school and college sports to be mostly positive. More than six in ten Americans (63%) perceive Title IX’s impact on men’s opportunities in sports to also be mostly positive.

“While Americans may not know Title IX well by name, when there is a description of those 37 words, we see the positive impact of this legislation on both men’s and women’s sports,” says Stephanie Calvano, Director of Data Management and Technology at the Marist Poll, “The question that remains is ‘what’s next?’ as there is an appetite for action to further improve Title IX.”

Has Title IX done enough? A notable proportion of Americans (48%), especially those with a knowledge of Title IX (53%), think additional action needs to be taken to improve the effectiveness of Title IX. In fact, 16% of Americans say Title IX is not strong enough and a tougher law needs to be passed, and 32% say the law is adequate but needs stricter enforcement. 24% of residents nationally believe Title IX is adequate as it is, and 12% think the law is no longer necessary and should be repealed.

Women with knowledge of Title IX (65%) and Democrats (60%) are more likely than men who are familiar with Title IX (42%) and Republicans (33%) to think the law needs to be strengthened or better enforced.

Despite the mostly positive impressions of Title IX’s impact, few Americans have a clear impression of the law by its name. When asked their impressions of Title IX, 66% of Americans, including 58% of sports fans, have either never heard of “Title IX” or are unsure how to rate it. Only 27% of residents nationally offer a favorable view of the law while 7% have an unfavorable one.

Title IX prevented discrimination based on sex in institutes of higher learning, but how do Americans define gender? Fifty-one percent of Americans say the sex listed on a person’s original birth certificate is the only way to define male and female in society. Fifty-three percent of sports fans agree.  42% of Americans disagree and believe that characterization of a person’s gender is antiquated. While a majority of men (57%) think a person’s gender identity is determined at birth, women divide. 46% say defining a person’s gender as the sex listed on a person’s birth certificate is out of date while 44% think that is the only way to define gender.

“Americans credit Title IX with providing greater opportunities to both men and women in sports,” says Mary Griffith, Associate Director of the Marist Institute for Public Opinion. “However, the next fight in the war for equality may be transgender rights, as younger Americans are more accepting of athletes playing on teams that reflect their gender identity and not their sex at birth.”

There is greater consensus, though, on whether athletes should play on competitive sports teams that match their gender assignment at birth or be permitted to join teams of their current gender identity. 61% of Americans, including 68% of sports fans, say athletes should only be permitted to play on teams that match their birth gender. 29% say they should be allowed to compete on teams that match their current gender identity. Men and women have different perceptions. Fifty-three percent of women and 70% of men say gender at birth should determine which competitive team an athlete is a member. Younger generations – 37% of Gen Z and Millennials, 25% of Gen X, and 23% of Baby Boomers – say a person’s team should match his/her/their current gender identity while 17% of the Silent/Greatest generation agree.

Fifty-two percent of Americans consider themselves to be sports fans, and 33% of Americans, including 53% of sports fans, say they regularly watch or follow women’s sports, at least, some of the time.